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Reading List October 03, 2020

Voting Is Underway, But Our System Is Broken

BR writers on how we can fix it.
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Today marks exactly one month until Americans go to the polls in the 2020 presidential election. But while we were expecting televised debates and (virtual) rallies in key battlegrounds, what happens in the next thirty days is anyone’s guess as Trump announces he has been diagnosed with coronavirus and fears for Joe Biden’s health grow in turn.

As confusion mounts, we are taking a moment to zoom out from the current race and look at the current flaws in our system as a whole—from the problems with the Electoral College and winner-takes-all elections, to the barriers holding back women and third parties. As Archon Fung notes, there are serious issues in our basic framing of elections too. “A problem with our democracy is that the ability to vote is something the political parties are competing over,” he writes. “They should compete over issues and principles and policies, not over who gets to vote and who doesn’t.” Whichever way you look at it, our electoral system is broken. This reading list offers some solutions. 

—Rosie Gillies

Democracy Is on the Ballot
Joshua Cohen interviews Reed Hundt

“Trump has four moves to ensure a victory: deny people the opportunity to vote, not count the votes, have the courts reject the vote, and get Republican legislators to appoint their own electors.”

• • •

The Real Reason the GOP Suppresses the Vote
by Yochai Benkler

Why is the GOP so keen to suppress the vote? The party’s fifty-year strategy has reached an electoral dead end. Since 1988, they have won the popular vote in just one presidential election. The Electoral College is their only hope.

• • •

A Perfect Storm of Vulnerabilities Could Determine the 2020 Election
by Jake Braun

“In November we should anticipate simultaneous infrastructure failures in conjunction with unstoppable cyber-attacks, as well as the combination of organic public outrage with bot and troll attacks promoting conspiracy theories.”


• • •

How to Mend Our Broken Electoral Process
by Reed Hundt

We must institute a method of electing a president that is sensitive to the votes of Americans everywhere.

• • •

It Takes Three (or More)
by Sam Rosenfeld

To combat the new normal of two-party gridlock in U.S. politics, many call for more political parties. But what works in parliamentary governments might not help in our presidential system

• • •

What Can Elections Do?
by Justin H. Vassallo

Without pressure from social movements, they won’t produce meaningful and deeply needed reform.

• • •

The Will of the People
by Kenneth A. Taylor

The Electoral College once served an urgent political purpose. The time has now come to abolish it.

• • •

What Does It Take to Get Women Elected?
a forum with Jennifer M. Piscopo

The United States ranks seventy-sixth in the world for women’s presence in the lower or single house of congress, sharing this spot with Afghanistan and Cabo Verde—strange company for a country that sells itself as a beacon of democracy.

• • •

Democracy for Losers
by Jan-Werner Müller

Like so much of Trump’s rhetoric, his claim that he won’t step down if he loses can be dismissed as ranting to fire up his base. But it could also make us more attentive to the fact that, in a democracy, losing is actually complicated business

• • •

Voter Discrimination Starts Well Before Election Day
by Ariel White

Voter ID laws burden minorities, but discrimination starts well before they reach the voting booth


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