Imagine a country where the right to vote is not guaranteed by the Constitution, where the candidate with the most votes loses, and where paperwork requirements and bureaucratic bungling disenfranchise millions. You’re living in it. If the consequences weren’t so serious, it would be funny.
An eye-opening, fact-filled companion to the forthcoming PBS documentary starring political satirist and commentator Mo Rocca, Electoral Dysfunction illuminates a broad array of issues, including the Founding Fathers’ decision to omit the right to vote from the Constitution—and the legal system’s patchwork response to this omission; the battle over voter ID, voter impersonation, and voter fraud; the foul-ups that plague Election Day, from ballot design to contested recounts; the role of partisan officials in running elections; and the anti-democratic origins and impact of the Electoral College. The book concludes with a prescription for a healthy voting system by Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.
Published in the run-up to the 2012 election, Electoral Dysfunction is for readers across the political spectrum who want their votes to count.
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.