American voting: The local character of suffrage in the United States

2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines the local dimension of suffrage in the United States. The U.S. has a hyper-federalized system of election administration, in which county and municipal officials and institutions continue to play important roles, and I demonstrate that a systematic analysis and appreciation of these suffrage practices enhances our understanding of voting rights and American political development. The dissertation makes theoretical, historical, and normative contributions to our ideas about American voting. First, I argue that conceiving suffrage as a practice, rather than merely a formal right or an instrumental behavior, produces a more rich understanding of what Americans actually do at the polls. Historically, I show that prominent roles for local officials and a great deal of variation in voting practices at the county or municipal level have always been components of American suffrage. Such variation—which is today often treated as a scandal or, at best, an historical accident to be rectified—is in important ways a product of purposeful state action, and is closely connected to American ideas about popular sovereignty and the state. Normatively, I emphasize the redemptive aspects of the local character of American suffrage, challenging what seems to be the prevailing bias today against things local. I contend not only that local administration of elections is deeply rooted in U.S. history and thought, but also that local administration has at times been an important engine of inclusion, expanding the bounds of suffrage before state and federal law did so. Americans have always voted together in our communities, and have done so for reasons rooted in our fundamental political traditions.

Indexing (details)

Political science;
American history
0615: Political science
0398: Law
0337: American history
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Election administration; Local; Political development; Suffrage; Voting
American voting: The local character of suffrage in the United States
Ewald, Alec C.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780496976409, 0496976400
Brigham, John
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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