Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, June 5
Spencer Overton's "Stealing Democracy"
I just received Spencer Overton's new book, Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression, published by W.W. Norton & Company. Professor Overton teaches at George Washington University Law School. He's one of the leading scholars in the field of election law, his research focusing largely on protecting the democratic rights of people of color and language minorities. See this website for background on the book, including a list of resources for those interested in getting involved. The book may be purchased here on Amazon.com.

In contrast to some other recent works with variants of the word "steal" in their title (see Friday's post), Professor Overton's book isn't about the theft of any particular election. Its main focus is, instead, on how seemingly neutral practices operate to diminish the political influence of many voters. Here's an excerpt from the website's description:
While politicians spew shallow sound bites that describe a "free" American people who govern themselves by selecting their representatives, in reality politicians from both parties maintain control by selecting particular voters. Incumbent politicians maintain thousands of election practices and bureaucratic hurdles that determine who votes and how votes are counted -- such as the location of election district boundaries, long lines at urban polling places, and English-only ballots. Spencer Overton uses real-life stories to show how these seemingly insignificant practices channel political power and determine policies on war, schools, clean air, and other issues that shape our lives.
I've read most chapters of the book in draft form, and recommend it highly. Professor Overton does an especially nice job of boiling down complex voting rights issues in a way that's likely to be understandable to readers who aren't experts in the field, without sacrificing accuracy and without ducking hard questions. I especially appreciate the fact that the book tackles issues of access to the ballot -- such as voter ID and felon disenfranchisement, which I collectively refer to under the rubric "The New Vote Denial" -- in addition to questions of representation and vote dilution. I'm looking forward to reading the final version of Stealing Democracy, and hope that it finds a wide audience.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University