Down for the Count

Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America

A new, fully updated edition of Steal This Vote—a rollicking history of American democracy showing that electoral fraud is as American as apple pie

“In a riveting and frightening account, Gumbel . . . traces election fraud in America from the eighteenth century to the present . . . [the issues he] winningly addresses are crucial to the future of democracy.” —Publishers Weekly on Steal This Vote

Down for the Count explores the tawdry history of elections in the United States—a chronicle of votes bought, stolen, suppressed, lost, miscounted, thrown into rivers, and litigated up to the U.S. Supreme Court—and uses it to explain why we are now experiencing the biggest backslide in voting rights in more than a century. This thoroughly revised edition, first published to acclaim and some controversy in 2005 as Steal This Vote, reveals why America is unique among established Western democracies in its inability to run clean, transparent elections. And it demonstrates, in crisp, clear, accessible language, how the partisan battles now raging over voter ID, out-of-control campaign spending, and minority voting rights fit into a long, largely unspoken tradition of hostility to the very notion of representative democracy.

Andrew Gumbel has interviewed Democrats, Republicans, and a range of voting rights activists to offer a multifaceted, deeply researched, and engaging critical assessment of a system whose ostensible commitment to democratic integrity so often falls apart on contact with race, money, and power. In an age of high-stakes electoral combat, billionaire-backed candidacies, and bottom-of-the-barrel campaigning, there can be no better time to reissue this troubling and revealing book.


“It’s a free country, as the saying goes, but a modern, well-functioning, mature democracy? Not even close. In this fast-paced ride through the seamy past and alarming present of America’s ramshackle, corruptible electoral machinery, Gumbel tells a tale of American exceptionalism with a vengeance.”
—Hendrik Hertzberg, staff writer at the New Yorker
“In this comprehensive assessment of voting in the United States, Gumbel explores in depth both the historical aspects and the current battles over elections and voting procedures—and their implications locally, nationally, and internationally. Gumbel illuminates, with intelligence and great perception, the structural flaws in the American election system. While the systemic dysfunction is dismal and pervasive, Gumbel also offers a list of solutions. Provocative and challenging, this book does not tell a pretty story, but it is a story essential to all of us who treasure our democracy.”
—Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln
“The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of American democracy; it is also the right upon which all our other rights depend. Down for the Count offers an eye-opening account of this country’s long history of meddling and voter suppression, and it establishes vital, disturbing connections between the rise of Jim Crow and the most recent attacks on voting integrity.”
—Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP

News and Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly reviews Down for the Count

Books by Andrew Gumbel

Democracy Unchained
How to Rebuild Government for the People

David W. Orr, Andrew Gumbel, Bakari Kitwana, William S. Becker

Won’t Lose This Dream
How an Upstart Urban University Rewrote the Rules of a Broken System

Andrew Gumbel

Goodreads Reviews