Changing the Way America Votes - Election Reform, Incrementalism, and Cutting Deals

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Election 2000 made America aware that its voting system was rife with problems. In a country that prides itself on its self-governing ability, Election 2000 pointed to a crack in the foundation of the mechanism by which the majority of those who participate in the political process chose their leaders.

Since the Bush vs. Gore decision chartered the course of history in America, scholars and practitioners alike have struggled to arrive at a comprehensive plan of attack for improving the voting process. The President has signed into law a reform measure enacted by the United States Congress that is being billed as a sweeping bi-partisan effort to effectuate that change. The question is, will America really see a significant and fundamental improvement in the voting process, one that ensures the equal protection of voting rights for all of its citizens?

This book analyses electoral reforms in America in the context of the larger picture of public policy theory, specifically that represented by an incrementalist paradigm. Given that the current congressional reform measure is based on a set of ideological compromises, the likelihood that it will result in sweeping change is doubtful. It is more likely that this is a cosmetic attempt to resolve a systematic problem. Still, the measure has some features that could serve to enhance our democratic system of governance.


“Geralyn Miller’s provocative study puts to the test the conventional wisdom that so quickly formulated during the 24-hour wall-to-wall coverage of the Florida recount and court cases. Miller’s work forces a reconsideration of many of the premises for HAVA [Help America Vote Act] and calls into question the expectations for future error-free elections that will free us from the anxiety about falling short of having the credible election mechanisms so essential to public confidence. Her analysis leads us back to an appreciation of the law of unintended consequences and the inescapable implications of the uncertainties associated with the interaction of millions of humans with technology…..Importantly, Miller brings a sober minded approach to her task, applying a framework that allows HAVA to be seen in the framework of a long-running, incremental policy process that does not deliver perfection for all time but builds on past progress to produce modest improvement.” (From the Preface) Philip O’Connor, PhD, Member, Illinois State Board Elections

Table of Contents

1. How America Votes
2. Identifying the Root Cause(s) of Voting Problems
3. The Politics of Reform
4. Road to Reform
5. Cosmetic Fix for a Systematic Problem
6. Democracy and the Future of Elections in America
Selected Bibliography

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