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An expert on US election law presents an encouraging assessment of current efforts to make our voting system more accessible, reliable, and effective.
In contrast to the anxiety surrounding our voting system, with stories about voter suppression and manipulation, there are actually quite a few positive initiatives toward voting rights reform. Professor Joshua A. Douglas, an expert on our electoral system, examines these encouraging developments in this inspiring book about how regular Americans are working to take back their democracy, one community at a time.
Told through the narratives of those working on positive voting rights reforms, Douglas includes chapters on expanding voter eligibility, easing voter registration rules, making voting more convenient, enhancing accessibility at the polls, providing voters with more choices, finding ways to comply with voter ID rules, giving redistricting back to the voters, pushing back on big money through local and state efforts, using journalism to make the system more accountable, and improving civics education. At the end, the book includes an appendix that lists organizations all over the country working on these efforts.
Unusually accessible for a lay audience and thoroughly researched, this book gives anyone fed up with our current political environment the ideas and tools necessary to affect change in their own communities.
About the Author
Joshua A. Douglas is a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law. His most recent scholarship focuses on the constitutional right to vote, with an emphasis on state constitutions, as well as the various laws, rules, and judicial decisions impacting election administration. He has also written extensively on election law procedure. He is a coauthor of an election-law case book and a coeditor of Election Law Stories, which tells the behind-the-scenes stories of the major cases in the field. In addition, his media commentaries have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, Reuters, the Washington Post, Politico, the Atlantic, Huffington Post, and Slate, among other outlets, and he has been quoted in major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. He appeared live on CNN on Election Day 2016.
“Cogent, well-written, and filled with inspiring stories, Vote for US should be required reading for those who feel that our democracy is broken. With this book, Joshua A. Douglas takes his place at the forefront of a growing intellectual effort to chronicle and strengthen the emerging nonpartisan Democracy Movement sweeping across the United States. Change is possible, and, as Douglas powerfully proves, it is already on its way.”
—Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, authors of Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want
“It is easy to find books that recount the numerous ways the United States election system fails, but it is far harder to find thoughtfully considered blueprints for success. In Vote for US, Joshua A. Douglas pairs expertly interpreted explanations of our voting system with compelling stories of those fighting to make it better. This book is sure to become an invaluable tool for anyone who cares about the progress of American democracy.”
—Jessica Huseman, reporter, ProPublica
“Vote for US is the rare book that shows how we will actually fix America’s political crisis. It reveals that vexing political gridlock, partisanship, extremism, and corruption are caused by broken election, campaign-finance, and ethics laws. It highlights the unprecedented and fantastically inspiring stories of state and local reformers who are fixing those laws, right now, at unprecedented levels across our nation. And it shows how we are following the footsteps of suffragettes and marriage-equality advocates to fix our political crisis—from the cities and states all the way to Washington, DC. This book is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to stop spinning their wheels and actually fix the dystopia that grips American politics.”
—Josh Silver, cofounder and director, RepresentUs
Douglas is one of the most important voting-rights experts in the country today. In Vote for US he deftly chronicles how we can make it easier for every American to vote. An inspiring, innovative, and must-read book about how to take back our democracy.”
—Ari Berman, senior reporter at Mother Jones and author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
“Douglas’s ability to tell the stories of real Americans working to improve our electoral process paints a hopeful picture of our democracy. This inspiring book will leave readers optimistic about the strength of our country and the values for which it stands.”
—Chris Carson, president, League of Women Voters of the United States
“This book is a true Profiles in Courage of real-life democracy champions: ordinary citizens who worked in extraordinary ways to improve elections in their communities. It is required reading for anyone seeking to do their part to ensure our country fulfills its constitutional promise of one person, one vote.”
—Jocelyn Benson, secretary of state of Michigan
“Voter suppression gets the headlines. But in the last few years, the vibrant, pro-voter Democracy Movement has quietly emerged to make our elections fairer and more accessible. By telling the inspiring stories of the ordinary people behind that movement, Joshua A. Douglas shows how a democracy that truly represents all of us isn’t just possible—it’s already taking shape.”
—Zachary Roth, author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy
“Participation in American elections is shamefully low, and it’s time we did something about it. Douglas tells the stories of Americans who fought to take back their voting rights—and ours.”
—Benjamin Ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University and coauthor of What Washington Gets Wrong
“From the disenfranchisement faced by people with criminal histories to extreme partisan gerrymandering, polling-site accessibility, and strict voter-ID laws, Vote for US provides a breathtakingly comprehensive overview of some of the obstacles we face in our democracy today. The possibilities for reform at the state level are also explored, leaving readers with plenty of reason to be hopeful and optimistic about the future. For those seeking to understand the modern-day challenges and voter-suppression efforts we are wrestling, this book is a must-read.”
—Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
"Douglas tells the vitally important but largely overlooked story of how grassroots activists, state and local politicians, and everyday Americans have played an important role in the adoption of positive voting reforms in this country. He shows how reforms such as automatic voter registration, felon re-enfranchisement, and vote-by-mail, among other proposals, have radically changed turnout and participation in some jurisdictions. He uses the debates over voter participation and election administration to persuasively show that broad societal change often has humble beginnings and can emerge from unexpected corners. The book is a must-read for everyone seeking to make our democracy more inclusive and dynamic than ever before.”
—Franita Tolson, voting-rights expert and professor of law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law
“This engaging and highly readable book by election-law expert Douglas is a compelling and important contribution to our conversation about how to improve elections. Rather than simply making a case for each reform, Douglas demonstrates how individual Americans are making a difference with their own advocacy, which not only helps this book stand out but also likely inspires readers to engage in their own reform efforts.”
—Trey Grayson, Republican secretary of state of Kentucky (2004–2011) and member of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration
"Offers an inspiring collection of stories that spotlight individuals and organizations doing the hard, grassroots work of improving our democracy. In order for our political system to work better for everyone, both significant structural reforms and sustained citizen engagement will be essential. This book illustrates how that is already happening in many states and cities across the country, and it provides important models for political reformers working at all levels of government.”
—Trevor Potter, lawyer for Colbert PAC, president of Campaign Legal Center, and former commissioner and chair of the Federal Election Commission
“This is an unmatched text that takes a deep and engaging look at innovative efforts across the country to improve all aspects of the voting process. The book examines many different approaches that states, localities, and individuals are taking to bolster our democracy by making voting more accessible and secure. These inspirational accounts show how feasible changes to our election systems can heighten civic participation and citizens’ trust that their most fundamental civic right, voting, is protected.”
—Jennifer Bachner, PhD, director of the Master of Science in Government Analytics, Johns Hopkins University, and coauthor of What Washington Gets Wrong
"Douglas has established himself as one of our sharpest and most important thinkers about election law and democracy. This must-read not only makes it clear that better democracy is possible but also lays out a well-defined path to getting there. We all know what’s gone wrong. Douglas knows how to fix it.”
—David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count and Unrigged: How Americans Fought Back, Slayed the Gerrymander, and Reinvented Democracy