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Rethinking American Electoral Democracy

By Matthew J. Streb

Routledge – 2008 – 226 pages

Series: Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation

Purchasing Options:

  • Paperback:
    February 8th 2008
  • Hardback:
    February 8th 2008


Is the cure for the ills of democracy more democracy? Is it possible to have too much democracy in a well-functioning government? What should an electoral democracy ideally look like?

In this critical examination of the state of electoral democracy in the United States, Matthew Streb provides an analysis of the major debates that rage among scholars and reformers on subjects as diverse as the number of elections we hold, the use of nonpartisan elections, and the presidential primary process. Ultimately, Streb makes an argument for a less burdensome democracy, a democracy in which citizens can participate more easily. Written in a clear and engaging style, this book is designed to get students to think critically about what it means to be democratic and how democratic the United States really is.


"Recommended. General readers and students of all levels." -- Choice

"Rethinking American Electoral Democracy is a highly readable, thought provoking survey of the ills and reforms of the mechanics of U.S. electoral politics. Streb’s arguments, such as more democracy is not always the best thing for the health and performance of a democratic system, are sure to make students think in new ways about institutions that, because they seem to have always been there, are largely taken for granted."

-- Gerald C. Wright, Indiana University

"Matthew Streb's new book is a fine addition to a small but growing set of books that examine the institutional arrangements—i.e., the rules and procedures—that shape our representative democracy. Streb discusses both the implications and the problems with our current institutional arrangements, examining a wide range of topics, such as whether we should make voting easier, whether judges should be elected, and whether the electoral college should be abolished. This is a well researched book that should stimulate students to think about whether the way that we now do things is really the best for our democracy."

--Charles Prysby, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

"Traditionally, proposals for election reform have revolved around a narrow set of issues: campaign finance, redistricting, and, since 2000, procedures for counting ballots. Matthew Streb's Rethinking American Electoral Democracy challenges us to think both more deeply and more broadly about American democracy. Streb begins with the most basic questions—Do we vote too often, and for too many offices?—and from there examines every stage of the process, challenging cherished assumptions and conventional wisdom all along the way. Neither conservative nor liberal, populist nor elitist, Rethinking American Electoral Democracy is a major contribution to efforts to improve and perfect our democratic institutions."

--Bradley Smith, Capitol University Law School and former Chair of the Federal Election Commission

"In this well-researched and engaging book, Streb draws on a large amount of normative and empirical scholarship to investigate problems in American electoral democracy and suggest specific policy reforms addressing those issues. His interesting reforms, which often include reducing democracy in order to improve it and dealing with issues associated with federalism, should spark conversations inside and outside the classroom…The book is also accessibly written and engaging, making it a worthy addition to many classes in American politics."

--Michael A. Unger, Ramapo College

"The book is a great and easy read. It moves through a lot of material without being burdensome. Some of the arguments are quite provocative. The book would be a great companion to any class on law and politics. It is an important contribution to the field."

--Guy-Uriel E. Charles, Duke Law School, Election Law Journal Vol. 9 No. 2, 2010


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

Author Bio

Matthew J. Streb is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. 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 (Lynne Rienner); and Polls and Politics: The Dilemmas of Democracy (SUNY).

Name: Rethinking American Electoral Democracy (eBook)Routledge 
Description: By Matthew J. Streb. Is the cure for the ills of democracy more democracy? Is it possible to have too much democracy in a well-functioning government? What should an electoral democracy ideally look like? In this critical examination of the state of electoral democracy in...
Categories: Elections, Political Institutions, U.S. Politics, Democracy