Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters

Victoria Bassetti, Author, Heather Smith, Afterword by, Mo Rocca, Foreword by
Victoria Bassetti. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-59558-812-8
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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Since 1789, the franchise in America, once limited to white propertied men, has steadily expanded. Still, as noted in this companion volume to the PBS documentary, the U.S. has the “lowest voter turnout of the world’s established democracies.” Bassetti, former chief counsel of a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, looks at the expansion of the franchise and why voters bother to cast their ballots (and often don’t) in the first place, before exploring the many shortcomings of our system, such as the poorly designed ballots in 2000 that cost 1.5 million votes (and quite possibly Al Gore the presidency). Basseti sometimes strains too hard to be nonpartisan. For example, she writes: “Both political parties... manipulate the system for maximum partisan advantage.” (The truth comes out only a few pages later: “Registration rolls are purged more aggressively by Republicans than Democrats, with profound impact on people’s ability to vote”). The book also could have used a set of recommendations to make the system more functional. Still, this is a well-written, enlightening look at how, when it comes to access to the ballot box and other voter rights, the world’s second oldest democracy still has a long way to go. (Nov.)
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