Stealing Democracy
Spencer Overton
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Buy *Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression* by Spencer Overton online

Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression
Spencer Overton
W.W. Norton
224 pages
June 2006
rated 5 of 5 possible stars
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The democratic vote is the lifeblood of the nation, and it behooves every citizen, regardless of party affiliation, to be well informed, insuring the security of a vital process in choosing our elected officials: “The legitimacy of democracy depends upon the right of every citizen to vote.”

In the last two national elections, we have seen a renewed attack on the voting system, thanks to the advent of computerized voting machines and paperless votes that are all but impossible to track except by employees of the machine manufacturer. Citizens must protect their rights; it is up to us to learn the threats and act to reverse unhealthy trends.

Stealing Democracy refers to the entire system as the voting “matrix,” discussing current problems in an effort to stimulate discussion and action on the part of concerned citizens: “In our closely divided political environment, even an obscure election rule in a single state can determine who sits in the White House or which party controls Congress.”

Considering the potential for abuse inherent in any bureaucracy, “America’s founders divided government power among executive, legislative and judicial branches in order to prevent abuses.” This critical balance is what must be protected at all costs, the well-oiled democratic machine that will be irreversibly damaged if not kept in check by such checks and balances.

Unexpectedly, there is no great conspiracy, no centralized organization bent on stealing the votes of citizens; rather, there is a “collection of ever-changing rules and practices employed… that shape who goes to the polls and which votes are counted.” Further, the voting process is affected by election laws, secretaries of state, election commissioners, county election boards, poll challenges and poll workers, not to mention budgetary constraints, fraud prevention and “state’s rights.”

The chapters address important aspects of the complex voting matrix at this point in our history: Chapter One questions who is guarding the gates of our democracy and who is in charge of redrawing district boundaries; Chapter Two speaks to local control of elections and how available monies affect the democratic process; Chapter Three challenges the elephant in the living room - whether race still matters in America.

Chapter Four discusses the critical importance of the federal Voting Rights Act and how it protects citizens against the discriminatory legislation of state and local politicians; Chapter Five considers all aspects of making voting available to all citizens, with attention to bilingual issues; and Chapter Six tackles “an emerging anti-fraud movement that proposes… voter ID requirements that threaten to exclude more legitimate voters than fraudulent ones.”

The concluding chapter takes these issues to the people, where the discussion belongs, average Americans from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, their views on potential reforms. There are no simple solutions, but in the words of Thom Hartmann (What Would Jefferson Do?): “Systematic change never happens from the top down: it’s always from the bottom up.”

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2006

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