by Eric Jude Cortes
African slaves, poor whites, women, and undocumented immigrants; all have been victimized in America, and according to a new book, all have also been exploited for the raw number of their population. In Vote Thieves: Illegal Immigration, Redistricting, and Presidential Elections, by Orlando Rodriguez, the author explains how politicians, past and present, have used these groups to push their political agendas while pursuing policies detrimental to these very same people. In order to rectify this repetition of abuses, Rodriguez argues that representation in Congress should be based on a state’s total eligible voters, not its total population.
In a work of masterful historical research and political science, Rodriguez takes the reader on a tour of history and provides eye-opening demonstrations of how various Americans have been valued for their population but not their vote. Starting with the Three-Fifths Compromise of the Constitutional Convention, and wrapping up with the Election of 2000 in Florida, Rodriguez’ use of census data makes one imagine how history would have been different if representation in Congress were based on voter eligibility. If enslaved Blacks weren’t counted as a third of a person, the spread of slavery, the Trail of Tears, and the death of over 600,000 Americans in the Civil War would be historical fiction instead of historical fact.
Having only eligible voters determine a state’s representation in Congress can only have positive effects, according to Rodriguez. Instead of using illegal immigrants as a permanent underclass and political scapegoats, states would have incentives to push for their legalization. Instead of politicians engaged in campaigns to disenfranchise voters or keep them from the polls, states would benefit from expanding the franchise. Simply put, Orlando Rodriguez is arguing for making our great democracy even more democratic.
Refusing to see the Founding Fathers as icons, and recognizing the motivations behind the creation of the Constitution, makes the arguments in Vote Thieves that much more impressive. The humanity of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and others is brought to light as Rodriguez uses their words to bolster his arguments, and to demonstrate their elitism. Taking on the Electoral College, the redistricting process, and the Constitution itself, Rodriguez demonstrates boldness atypical of works of such academic strength.
Vote Thieves is a brilliant and well sourced work of political science. Read it and become enlightened at the processes both overt and covert that have led to the expansion of political power but not the expansion of voter rolls. The beautiful truth of this book is that Orlando Rodriguez does give us a solution that can make America a more perfect union.
To learn more about Eric, randomly bump into him on the street and politely ask him some questions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.