Rethinking American Electoral Democracy  book cover
3rd Edition

Rethinking American Electoral Democracy

ISBN 9781138786257
Published November 16, 2015 by Routledge
254 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

While frustration with various aspects of American democracy abound in the United States, there is little agreement over—or even understanding of—what kinds of changes would make the system more effective and increase political participation. Matthew J. Streb sheds much-needed light on all the major concerns of the electoral process in the thoroughly revised third edition of this timely book on improving American electoral democracy. 

This critical examination of the rules and institutional arrangements that shape the American electoral process analyzes the major debates that embroil scholars and reformers on subjects ranging from the number of elections we hold and the use of nonpartisan elections, to the presidential nominating process and campaign finance laws. Ultimately, Streb argues for a less burdensome democracy, a democracy in which citizens can participate more easily in transparent, competitive elections.

This book is designed to get students of elections and American political institutions to think critically about what it means to be democratic, and how democratic the United States really is.

Part of the Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation series, edited by Matthew J. Streb.

Table of Contents

1. Creating a Model Electoral Democracy PART I: Rethinking the Costs of Voting  2. Factors that Influence Voter Turnout  3. The Offices We Elect  4. Direct Democracy PART II: Rethinking the Mechanics of Voting  5. Ballot Laws  6. Voting Machines PART III: Rethinking National Elections  7. The Redistricting Process  8. Presidential Primaries  9. The Electoral College  10. Campaign Finance  11. Conclusion: Moving Toward a Model Electoral Democracy

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Matthew J. Streb is Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University, USA. His books include The New Electoral Politics of Race (University of Alabama);  Academic Freedom at the Dawn of a New Century (Stanford University); Running for Judge (NYU); Law and Election Politics: The Rules of the Game (Routledge); and Polls and Politics: The Dilemmas of Democracy (SUNY).


"From voter ID laws to the Electoral College to redistricting to campaign finance, election law in the United States is loaded with controversy. In the latest edition of Rethinking American Electoral Democracy, Matt Streb cuts through the partisan rhetoric over how we run elections in the US, giving us evidence and reasoned argument for how to make our democracy better. You may not agree with all of his solutions, but you will admire Streb's straight talk, common sense, and logic."

– Richard L. Hasen, University of California—Irvine and author of Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections


"Rethinking American Electoral Democracy does more than challenge students to think critically about the peculiar way in which Americans conduct their elections. It sparks students to argue about how best to fix the nation’s electoral institutions. No reader will agree with all the reforms Streb proposes—and that is precisely what makes it such an invaluable teaching tool. Assign this book and invite your students to join in a profoundly important debate about what’s wrong with American electoral democracy and how we can fix it."

– Richard J. Ellis, Willamette University


"Our political system is so complex and produces so much inequality that it can often be challenging to consider where a reform agenda should even begin. In this book, Streb helps to direct our attention to some of the most significant problems with the current system and proposes a sensible set of reforms that would make for a more robust and equal democratic system. It is a worthwhile read for scholars and the general public alike."

– Brian Schaffner, University of Massachusetts—Amherst


"By finding just the right balance of theory, empirical data, analysis, and examples, Streb has produced a text that students will find both accessible and engaging. His transparent critical approach is a refreshing contribution to the study of American electoral democracy."

– Richard Holtzman, Bryant University


"Matthew Streb’s latest edition of Rethinking American Electoral Democracy is an engaging and thoughtful analysis of how election rules stand in the way of a 'better, smarter democracy.' At a time when young people are increasingly disillusioned with politics, Streb offers intriguing ideas for reform. Students will appreciate Streb’s clarity and brevity. Instructors will find this book thorough and scholarly."

– Rodd Freitag, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire