Campaign and Election Reform: A Reference Handbook

Campaign and Election Reform: A Reference Handbook

Campaign and Election Reform: A Reference Handbook

Campaign and Election Reform: A Reference Handbook

Synopsis

This handbook provides a sweeping overview of U.S. campaign and election reform efforts, past and present, from the introduction of the secret ballot to touch-screen voting.

Excerpt

Citizens have often reacted with a certain level of cynicism to campaigns and elections. H. L. Mencken, the noted curmudgeon of American journalism, once compared a national campaign to “the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in,” an event better even than war. And George Bernard Shaw commented that an election is “a moral horror,” a battle without blood, and a mud bath for all those involved in it. Despite such evaluations, voting has come to signify the very essence of democracy. This is true in part because the term “democracy” is now used primarily to refer to representative democracy.

When the United States first became a nation, many prominent Americans still regarded democracy with suspicion. Political parties, a major component of representative democracy, had not yet been invented. According to the newly adopted national Constitution, U.S. senators were to be selected by state legislatures, and the president was to be chosen by a group of individuals, called the electoral college, who were appointed by state legislatures. Only members of the House of Representatives were to be elected by the citizens according to electoral rules determined by the respective states. From that inauspicious beginning, the history of campaigns and elections is an account of various reforms intended to provide for more honest and fair electoral procedures and to extend the right to vote. Various measures, such as the elimination of property qualifications for voting, granting women the right to vote, introducing the secret ballot, guaranteeing voting rights to minorities, and providing for the regulation of campaign practices have significantly altered the campaign and election process.

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