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Elections and Voting Summer Reading List

A collection of must-reads curated by Ash Center’s Tova Wang showcases new ideas and efforts to build a more inclusive democracy in the US.

Collage of the book covers, youtube graphics, and report covers

Over the past few years, several books and reports have chronicled the threats to our democracy and what they might portend. Now, what interests Ash Center Senior Researcher in Democratic Practice Tova Wang most is how we meet those challenges.

In this curated reading list, Wang highlights books, reports, and webinars that address how we can build a more inclusive democracy — from shining a light on work happening at the state level to sharing ideas for big structural change over the long term.

As we look towards a historic November election, the list below was created for students, scholars, and individuals interested in learning how we can improve our elections, expand voting rights, and enhance our democracy.

Two Party Doom Loop

Cover photo of "Two Party Doom"

Lee Drutman, New America Senior Fellow and author of several studies looking at elections, provides the history of our party politics and its emergence into a rigid two-party system. Drutman makes the most compelling case I’ve read for election reform that would produce a multiparty system that spans the political and ideological spectrum, such as proportional representation.   

Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College

Cover photo of "Why do we still have the electoral college?"

On the topic of big, structural election reform, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Alex Keyssar, the country’s leading historian on American voting rights, in this book, describes how the Framers got to the Electoral College system. It’s a story that will surprise readers and bring a whole different perspective to how we got this and other constitutional provisions we now take as enshrined in our system. Keyssar takes readers through the tortured and fascinating history of the attempts to reform the Electoral College, and how efforts are going forward today.

100% Democracy

Cover photo of "100% Democracy"

In this book, authors Miles Rapoport, a long-time organizer and leader; and well-known Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne, make a convincing case for implementing a mandatory – or as they accurately call it “universal” – voting in the United States. While upon first impression this may seem like a remote reform to consider, after reading it you may become a believer that, if fairly implemented as they propose, a system of this kind is a sensible way to increase turnout, create a more representative electorate, decrease voter suppression, and improve the nature of political campaigns. They carefully address objections to the proposal and have well-considered answers that might change your mind.

Webinar: Election Worker Protection: Safeguarding Those Who Safeguard Our Democracy

Cover photo of "Election Worker Protection: Safeguarding Those Who Safeguard Our Democracy"

It’s useful to understand the challenges to election administration from those who know it best – election administrators! Featuring Stephen Richer, the embattled director of elections in Maricopa County, this webinar has the extra benefit of having been hosted by the Campaign Legal Center, a legal and advocacy organization that has been working for years for fairer and more equitable elections.

Policy to Carry Us Beyond the Next Election

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Over the last few years, the Bipartisan Policy Center issued some excellent reports looking at long-term ways to think about fixing our system of elections – beyond what we need to do for 2024. This report takes the approach of considering, “not just the next election but the next 100: to think long term about where we want our democracy to be for future generations, and what policy changes must be made now to get us there.”

2023, A Year of Progress: Expanding Voting Rights Across the Country

Roll of "I Voted" stickers

Among the other great election reform successes that pro-voter advocates have achieved, the success of the movement to restore voting rights for people previously convicted of a felony is extraordinary. This report describes how this has been accomplished in state after state and the potential impact of providing hundreds of thousands of citizens the right to vote.

Securing the 2024 Election

Collage of voting paraphernalia

For people who are interested in learning some of the most effective recommendations for addressing problems and threats to the 2024 elections, this report from the Brennan Center is a great resource. This report discusses potential threats to the election such as disinformation, harassment of election officials, and cyberattacks, and how local, state, and federal governments work together to address them.

Voting in 2020: Professional Sports Stadiums and Arenas as Polling Places

VOTE is painted on the sideline of an NFL football field

In this report, I and a team of co-researchers look at an innovative way to provide polling access to voters while also making voting more fun: using professional sports stadiums and arenas as polling places. A huge number of pro football, basketball, and baseball facilities were used for voting in 2020. We found that these spaces made exceptional polling places that served the needs of voters and election administrators and were great experiences for the teams. As we continue this work, the hope is that stadium and arena voting will appeal to a wide range of voters and increase participation.

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Our Top Spring 2024 Events
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Our Top Spring 2024 Events

This past semester, the Ash Center hosted discussions and debates on topics ranging from AI and democracy to the future of the Electoral College.

Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

Additional Resource

Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

As part of the Ash Center’s ongoing work examining the legal, political, and policy implications of advancing jail-based voting, Aaron Rosewood and Tova Wang examine the statutory basis for jail voting in each state.

More on this Issue

Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

Additional Resource

Laws That Govern Jail-Based Voting: A 50-State Legal Review

As part of the Ash Center’s ongoing work examining the legal, political, and policy implications of advancing jail-based voting, Aaron Rosewood and Tova Wang examine the statutory basis for jail voting in each state.