01 August 2018

BOOK: Allan J. LICHTMAN, The Embattled Vote in America : From the Founding to the Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018). ISBN 9780674972360, €25.00

Harvard University Press will publish a book on the history of voting laws in the United States. The book is available as from the 13th August.


Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. Yet the world’s oldest continuously operating democracy guarantees no one, not even citizens, the opportunity to elect a government. In this rousing work, the best-selling author of The Case for Impeachment calls attention to the founders’ crucial error: leaving the franchise to the discretion of individual states.

For most of U.S. history, America’s political leaders have considered suffrage not a natural right but a privilege restricted by wealth, sex, race, residence, literacy, criminal conviction, and citizenship. As a result, the right to vote has both expanded and contracted over time, depending on political circumstances. In the nineteenth century, states eliminated economic qualifications for voting, but the ideal of a white man’s republic persisted through much of the twentieth century. And today, voter identification laws, political gerrymandering, registration requirements, felon disenfranchisement, and voter purges deny many millions of American citizens the opportunity to express their views at the ballot box.

We cannot blame the founders alone for America’s embattled vote. Allan Lichtman, who has testified in more than ninety voting rights cases, notes that subsequent generations have failed to establish suffrage as a universal right. The players in the struggle for the vote have changed over time, but the arguments remain familiar. Voting restrictions impose a grave injustice on the many disenfranchised Americans and stunt the growth of our democracy.


Allan J. Lichtman is Distinguished Professor of History at American University and the author of many acclaimed books on U.S. political history, including White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, FDR and the Jews (with Richard Breitman), and The Case for Impeachment. He is regularly sought out by the media for his authoritative views on voting and elections.


Introduction: Voters and Nonvoters
1. The Founding Fathers’ Mistake
2. A White Man’s Republic
3. Constructing and Deconstructing the Vote
4. Votes for Women
5. The Absent Voter
6. The Voting Rights Act of 1965
7. The New Wars over the Vote
8. Reforming American Voting
Conclusion: The Embattled Vote

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