Election meltdown Dirty tricks, distrust, and the threat to American democracy

Richard L. Hasen

Book - 2020

"The synergy of these four factors-voter suppression, pockets of incompetence, foreign and domestic dirty tricks, and incendiary rhetoric-undermines public trust in the fairness and accuracy of American elections and creates high risks for the 2020 elections and beyond"--

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New Haven and London : Yale University Press, [2020] © 2020.
Physical Description
xi, 187 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Richard L. Hasen (author)
Corporate Author
Yale University Press (-)
  • Introduction: The new voting wars
  • The icicle
  • The weaker link
  • Dirty tricks
  • "Stolen"
  • Surviving 2020 and beyond.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

UC Irvine law and political science professor Hasen (Voting Wars) investigates the causes of recent concerns about the integrity of American elections in this candid and disturbing account. He identifies four primary dangers for 2020 and beyond: voter suppression, inept electoral officials, foreign and domestic manipulation through social media and fraud, and "incendiary rhetoric" claiming that a particular race was stolen or rigged. While Hansen cites many examples of Republican misbehavior, he calls out Democrats as well, noting that Hillary Clinton's claim that Wisconsin's strict voter identification law may have cost her the 2016 election was rated "mostly false" by the fact-checking organization PolitiFact. According to Hasen, focusing on whether such laws change results gives the misleading impression that "voter suppression matters only if it affects election outcomes." He writes that there is "reason to fear" President Trump won't concede the 2020 election if returns show a narrow Democratic victory, but points out that Trump has been unable or unwilling to follow through on many of his authoritarian impulses. Hasen's proposed solutions include bipartisan cooperation to remove incompetent electoral officials and the tightening of regulations related to absentee ballots. Readers hoping for immediate fixes will be disappointed, but those focused on the long-term health of American democracy will appreciate this bracing and comprehensive inquiry. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

A hard-hitting critique of the American election process as timely as it is frightening.In a slim, cogently argued analysis, legal scholar Hasen (Law and Political Science/Univ. of California, Irvine; The Justice of Contradictions: Anthony Scalia and the Politics of Disruption, 2018, etc.) points to four dangers threatening the voting process in 2020 and beyond: "voter suppression, pockets of electoral incompetence, foreign and domestic dirty tricks," and "a rising incendiary rhetoric about stolen' or rigged' elections." Each of these problems causes voters to distrust the fairness and accuracy of electionsthe basic tenet of democracyand may provide fuel for Donald Trump in 2020 if he refuses to concede a close election by raising "unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud." As Michael Cohen remarked in February 2019, "given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power." That fear was so great before the 2016 election that the Barack Obama administration, assuming a Hillary Clinton victory, "came up with contingency plans," calling for an oversight committee of congressional Republicans, former presidents, and former Cabinet-level officials to validate the election result. Hasen looks in depth at Republicans' efforts to suppress voter registration and notes that as the 2020 election season began, "more states passed new laws aimed at curtailing voter registration drives in the face of high African American turnout." Addressing the problem of technological disruptions of the voting process and manipulation of public opinion, the author urges members of the current administration to take seriously "cyberthreats to America's power grid, critical infrastructure, and voting technology, and that they take defensive measures despite being led by a man who has proved himself more than willing to look the other way (at best) regarding Russian involvement in American elections, particularly when that involvement benefits him." Overall, Hasen calls for "nonpartisan, professionalized election administration" and enhanced civics education about the nation's vital "multifaceted plural democracy."Required reading for legislators and voters. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.