Despite howls for reform, the only thing separating us from another election disaster of the kind that hit Florida in 2000, and that almost struck again in Ohio in 2004, may simply be another close vote. In this lucid and lively book, Heather Gerken diagnoses what is wrong with our elections and proposes a radically new and simple solution: a Democracy Index that would rate the performance of state and local election systems. A rough equivalent to the U.S. News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities, the Index would focus on problems that matter to all voters: How long does it take to vote? How many ballots get discarded? How often do voting machines break down? And it should work for a simple reason: no one wants to be at the bottom of the list.
For a process that is supposed to be all about counting, U.S. elections yield few reliable numbers about anything--least of all how well the voting system is managed. The Democracy Index would change this with a blueprint for quantifying election performance and reform results, replacing anecdotes and rhetoric with hard data and verifiable outcomes. A fresh vision of reform, this book shows how to drive improvements by creating incentives for politicians, parties, and election officials to join the cause of change and to come up with creative solutions--all without Congress issuing a single regulation.
In clear and energetic terms, The Democracy Index explains how to realize the full potential of the Index while avoiding potential pitfalls. Election reform will never be the same again.
Heather K. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches election and constitutional law. She is a frequent media commentator on elections and has written for the New Republic, Roll Call, Legal Affairs, and the Legal Times.
"The Democracy Index is an incredibly powerful work because it shows the way forward for using data in the service of reform. . . . A powerful call for a new approach to election administration. Anyone with even a tangential interest in improving our nation's election system should take some time to read the book."--Doug Chapin, Electionline Weekly
"Gerken writes in an accessible and engaging style, making this book about a not exactly-sexy topic a pretty good read. Her prose are written in a welcome straight-forward, and unstuffy style. . . . Filled with anecdotes and examples to support and flesh-out the author's arguments, The Democracy Index is a quick, interesting and important read for anyone invested in America getting Democracy right."--Stefan Fergus, Civilian Reader
"Gerken is well aware of the pertinent literature and uses it effectively to describe the information we have about voting and the information we lack. I found her argument compelling. I was particularly impressed by the way in which she anticipated criticisms and responded to them. The psychological underpinning upon which she bases her case is equally impressive. This is a very good book with an important idea. I hope that it gains a wide and appreciative readership that generates a much-needed debate on election reform in the United States."--Stephen J. Wayne, Perspectives on Politics
"[Gerken's] book provides a valuable contribution and is a very useful starting point for thoughtful discussion and consideration of the data we need to evaluate democracy."--Lonna Rae Atkeson, Political Science Quarterly
"Addressing a timely topic in highly accessible style, this book is recommended for all interested readers."--Bob Nardini, Library Journal
Table of Contents:
INTRODUCTION Why We Need a Democracy Index 1
CHAPTER 1: The Perverse Politics of Election Reform Why (We Think) Elections Are Run Badly, and What to Do about It 11
CHAPTER 2: The Promise of Data-driven Reform 38
CHAPTER 3: The Politics of Reform and the Promise of Ranking 66
CHAPTER 4: Is the Game Worth the Candle? 91
CHAPTER 5: Getting from Here to There in Miniature Making the Democracy Index a Reality 108
Conclusion: Getting from "Here to There" Redux 132