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ELECTORAL DYSFUNCTION by Victoria Bassetti

ELECTORAL DYSFUNCTION

A Survival Manual for American Voters

By Victoria Bassetti

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59558-812-8
Publisher: New Press

A delightfully provocative history and review of voting in America.

Conceived as a companion to the PBS series of the same name, this handbook about elections and voting will undoubtedly appeal to both first-time voters and those who participate regularly. Bassetti, a political professional who has worked with various judicial and legislative bodies, provides a history of the struggle to secure and broaden the franchise and an analysis of who votes and why. She outlines the working of the Electoral College, the multilevel patchwork of election administration and the role of political parties. Federal election law, she explains, is at the top of a pyramid encompassing more than 13,000 electoral districts, each of which can be subject to different legal and procedural regimes. The author's initial provocation is that the right to vote was not originally enshrined in the Constitution. Excluded as one of the compromises that ensured adoption, the right to vote entered via the amendment process. Elections, she writes, have been driven since the beginning of the republic by disputes between those who want to broaden enfranchisement and increase turnout, and those who want to suppress the vote. She argues that it is through such political conflicts, as well as the emergence of much broader movements for emancipation, women’s suffrage and civil rights, that progress has been made. Bassetti also historically and comparatively discusses election turnouts and the demographic characteristics of those who vote. Vote buying and fraud are presented in a historical context, which emphasizes that restrictive administrative and legal measures have a far greater effect on the vote than individual criminality at the polls. Four appendices provide documentation and access to additional resources.

A well-organized, important tool that will remain useful beyond the present electoral cycle.