cover image Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy

Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy

Richard L. Hasen. Yale Univ, $27.50 (208p) ISBN 978-0-300-24819-7

UC Irvine law and political science professor Hasen (Voting Wars) investigates the causes of recent concerns about the integrity of American elections in this candid and disturbing account. He identifies four primary dangers for 2020 and beyond: voter suppression, inept electoral officials, foreign and domestic manipulation through social media and fraud, and “incendiary rhetoric” claiming that a particular race was stolen or rigged. While Hansen cites many examples of Republican misbehavior, he calls out Democrats as well, noting that Hillary Clinton’s claim that Wisconsin’s strict voter identification law may have cost her the 2016 election was rated “mostly false” by the fact-checking organization PolitiFact. According to Hasen, focusing on whether such laws change results gives the misleading impression that “voter suppression matters only if it affects election outcomes.” He writes that there is “reason to fear” President Trump won’t concede the 2020 election if returns show a narrow Democratic victory, but points out that Trump has been unable or unwilling to follow through on many of his authoritarian impulses. Hasen’s proposed solutions include bipartisan cooperation to remove incompetent electoral officials and the tightening of regulations related to absentee ballots. Readers hoping for immediate fixes will be disappointed, but those focused on the long-term health of American democracy will appreciate this bracing and comprehensive inquiry. (Feb.)