With Super Tuesday coming up on March 6th, election-related emotions are already running high, and as November slowly approaches, we can only expect them to rise further. Voters are concerned about everything from foreign policy to healthcare and gay marriage—but as Richard L. Hasen demonstrates in his forthcoming book, The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, there is also plenty of controversy surrounding the elections themselves.
In the wake of the 2000 Bush/Gore race, which culminated in a month-long period of uncertainty over the exact numbers of ballots cast for each presidential candidate in the state of Florida, voting machines and data storage have become ever more contentious. But it’s not just Florida. According to Hasen, the highly partisan political climate intensifies debates surrounding election policy, and the rise of social networking magnifies the risk that voters will lose faith in election results—and the presidential administrations that develop in their aftermath. Instead of addressing real issues of election policy reform, such conflicts frequently only send us deeper into the trenches of The Voting Wars, where “the Next Election Meltdown” of Hasen’s title becomes a real possibility.
In a post on his blog The Loyal Opposition, the New York Times’ editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal draws on Hasen’s analysis of recent debates over the passage of laws which require voters to show identification at polling places. Such laws are usually the darlings of the Republican Party, which has grown increasingly vocal in combating voter fraud, but Hasen cautions that such legislation may be overkill. In protesting ID laws, Democrats accuse Republicans of supporting discriminatory measures that may have a particularly severe effect on certain minority groups—one particularly controversial Florida law passed in 2011 was dubbed a “new Jim Crow,” harkening back to historical concerns about the protecting the franchise of black voters. In a country whose political struggles rest on universal suffrage, Hasen argues that no law should create obstacles to citizens casting votes. Still, he cautions, neither party is entirely guiltless; indeed, Democrats often exaggerate the effects of ID legislation beyond demonstrable statistics.
In an e-short preview of Hasen’s book called “The Fraudulent Fraud Squad,” the author treats some of these issues in greater detail. The excerpt is available from Amazon Kindle here and visit Hasen’s election law blog for more on The Voting Wars.