Crisis at the Polls: An Electoral Reform Handbook

Crisis at the Polls: An Electoral Reform Handbook

Crisis at the Polls: An Electoral Reform Handbook

Crisis at the Polls: An Electoral Reform Handbook


If free and fair elections are the heart of our prized democratic system of government, the integrity of our electoral system must be beyond question. Yet all too often, flaws in the administration of our elections have undermined public confidence in the results. This volume is virtually unique in focusing closely on the procedural problems of our electoral system, including those posed by the computerization of voting systems. The author analyzes events in the electoral history of the United States (and, tangentially, of certain other nations) to reveal the particular dynamics of democratic electoral systems that permit purportedly free and fair elections to subvert rather than express the public will.

Past electoral crises shedding light on our electoral deficiencies are chronicled in detail, allowing the author to diagnose systemic failures that can, he contends, be remedied in order to strengthen our democratic system. Chapters focus on current laws and procedures regarding voter registration, provisional ballots, absentee ballots, computerized voting systems, and the Electoral College. The author recommends specific reforms in all these areas that will safeguard our democratic heritage and ensure that the voice of the people is heard. The book presents often-complex material in lucid prose, illuminating issues vital to democracy.


The history of civilizations is largely the study of the succession of leaders of those civilizations. That history shows that a primary factor in the success and longevity of any body politic has been its development of procedures and channels for the peaceful and orderly transition of political power from one generation to the next. Indeed, history is littered with the carcasses of nations that collapsed not because of external threats, but rather under the strain of internal rivalries for political power.

The most natural form of succession that developed in the earliest societies was monarchism, for nothing more promoted stability, prosperity, and order than a long-living benevolent despot whose authority went unchallenged during the despot’s lifetime. (Indeed, if the course of human evolution had not dictated a finite, and often short, human life span, early civilizations, such as ancient Egypt, might still be ruled by the first warlord who united the warring tribes and declared himself pharaoh.)

Yet monarchism had one vital aspect that enabled it to survive as a method for intergenerational transfers of power even to the present day, namely, a simple and orderly procedure for determining a nation’s next leader. Far more important than ensuring that a future leader would be righteous, fair, or even competent was that the selection be widely accepted. Without this acceptance, the subsequent battles for power were usually decided by violence, accompanied by anarchy, chaos, and the dissolution of society. A civilization could withstand the occasional cruel or incompetent ruler, particularly if his life was short; but few could survive a long period of chaos and anarchy. It was the internal rivalries for political power in the Roman Empire that weakened it from within, rather than the incompetent rule of any particular emperor, that ultimately caused its fall.

Thus, monarchism’s fatal flaw turned out to be not so much that it so often begat a depraved or incompetent ruler, but rather that the monarchial system . . .

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