You Call This an Election? America's Peculiar Democracy

By Steven E. Schier | Go to book overview

Preface

The 2000 election not only revealed some glaring shortcomings in American election administration, but also raised broader questions about America's system of elections. Is the electoral college really necessary? Why is voting turnout so low in the United States? This book addresses these queries, along with other long-standing issues of American elections, including the use of racial data and census totals in redistricting, the value of the initiative method of direct democracy, and the utility of campaign finance reform.

Unlike most books on American elections, this one identifies four criteria for evaluating electoral systems—the degree to which they promote (i) political, governmental, and regime stability; (2) accountability of elected officials; (3) high voter turnout; and (4) thorough deliberation of public policy. The book is also distinctive in that it compares America's electoral system to those of other established democracies and evaluates differing national electoral systems in terms of the four normative criteria. This more encompassing approach can broaden thinking about American elections and encourage more thorough and far-reaching discussion.

For in comparative perspective, America is very much a peculiar democracy.

One quirky problem of American elections—the haphazard quality of election administration—seemed to recede a bit during the 2002 elections. States administer elections in America. Their varying methods have produced controversies, most famously those surrounding the dubious conduct of elections in Florida during the 2000 presidential election and the state's 2002 gubernatorial primary. National election reform finally arrived

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You Call This an Election? America's Peculiar Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - Peculiar, Indeed 1
  • Chapter 1 - What an Electoral System Can Do 11
  • Chapter 2 - Compared to What? 33
  • Chapter 3 - Why Turnout Fell 55
  • Chapter 4 - Direct Democracy or Legislative Government? 77
  • Chapter 5 - Four Controversies 97
  • Chapter 6 - What Sort of Democracy? 127
  • Conclusion - Less Peculiar 145
  • Notes 149
  • References 151
  • Index 161
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