On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States

J. Douglas Smith. Hill and Wang, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8090-7423-5
The link between voting and democracy in the United States has most often been examined through efforts to expand the electorate. In the post-Revolution period this meant eliminating property qualifications for free white adult men, while after the Civil War the emphasis shifted to the universal suffrage campaigns of African-Americans and women that lasted well into the 20th century. Yet as historian Smith (Managing White Supremacy) ably demonstrates, beginning in the late 19th century, malapportionment—the uneven representation of constituents by lawmakers—became the most serious threat to political equality. Soon, many states determined representation according to area or district rather than (or sometimes in addition to) population figures. Malapportionment, yet another way for native-born whites to maintain power, became obvious after WWII and coincided with an upswing in civil rights activism. The remedy came through legal challenges via the Supreme Court during the 1960s; as the Court dismantled malapportionment in cases like Baker v. Carr, political drama kicked into high gear as opponents nearly triggered a constitutional crisis in their desperation to hold onto power. Though Smith takes a novel angle and writes with a light touch, it will appeal more to an academic audience. Illus. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 06/10/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-374-71208-2
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-8090-7424-2
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