Votes of Confidence

A Young Per­son’s Guide to Amer­i­can Elec­tions

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Young Adult -

Jeff Fleischer, Zest Books Soft­cover $13.99 (224pp), 978-1-936976-90-4

Even as a kid, Jeff Fleischer recalls, he was a pol­i­tics nerd. Now a Chicago jour­nal­ist with his­tory books about iconic rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and in­stances of mass hys­te­ria un­der his belt, he’s is­sued a timely primer on the Amer­i­can elec­toral process, Votes of Confidence. Many adults are poorly in­formed about the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, he notes; only 62 per­cent would likely pass the US cit­i­zen­ship test. This book would be a per­fect re­fresher course, then, but should also be re­quired read­ing for six­teen- to eigh­teen-yearolds as they pre­pare to vote for the first time.

Fleischer cov­ers a huge amount of in­for­ma­tion, but in such an or­derly and lu­cid man­ner that it never feels over­whelm­ing. The book starts with a quick run­down of Amer­i­can his­tory from the orig­i­nal colonies through to the Con­sti­tu­tion and its amend­ments, then moves on to dis­cuss how the three branches of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment func­tion and how laws vary be­tween states. At every turn the au­thor gives his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples: the three pres­i­dents who lost the pop­u­lar vote but gained the of­fice any­way, the third par­ties that have been at least tem­po­rar­ily vi­able, and so on. Rel­e­vant fac­toids abound; for in­stance, Bernie San­ders “holds the record as the long­est-serv­ing in­de­pen­dent in Congress.”

The book goes deep into the nitty-gritty of elec­tions—voter reg­is­tra­tion, polling, cam­paign fund-rais­ing, vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, and how to find re­li­able, non­par­ti­san in­for­ma­tion about can­di­dates—yet never loses sight of the big pic­ture. “It’s easy to be cyn­i­cal” about the small role in­di­vid­u­als play in the po­lit­i­cal process, Fleischer ac­knowl­edges, but “there’s only one so­lu­tion. If more Amer­i­cans be­come in­formed vot­ers, es­pe­cially young vot­ers, they’ll be able to out­num­ber the un­in­formed ones.”

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