Counting Every Vote


Counting Every Vote

The Most Contentious Elections in American History

Robert L. Dudley and Eric Shiraev

192 pages


October 2008


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eBook (PDF)
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September 2011


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About the Book

The 2000 U.S. presidential election was not the first in American history that was exceptionally close or that produced highly disputed results. In 1801 Thomas Jefferson became president after an electoral gridlock, but only after Congress voted three dozen times to select the president. Charles Hughes lost in 1916 to Woodrow Wilson by losing in California by some 3,000 votes. In 1960 John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by only a fraction of a percentage point in a very controversial election.

What would have happened if Aaron Burr, rather than Jefferson, had become president? What if Nixon had defeated Kennedy in 1960? What if Al Gore had become president in 2001 instead of George W. Bush? Using six cases, political scientists Robert Dudley and Eric Shiraev argue that engaging in this counterfactual exercise provides an excellent opportunity to revisit history, learn from its lessons, and relate to contemporary elections.

The authors’ aim is not to prove that their suggested scenarios would have certainly happened, but merely to show that they might have, and therein lies the importance of voting. Every vote counts, and the consequences can be enormous.


"In this well-written and absorbing narrative, Robert Dudley and Eric Shiraev provide us with insight and understanding regarding a fascinating aspect of American politics and elections. The authors remind us that close elections aren’t just exercises in preference ordering of the public but responses to the specific electoral, political, and social environment that encompasses the country at a certain point in time. While history cannot be revised, Dudley and Shiraev argue that we can draw fresh lessons from lost opportunities and unrealized possibilities, policies never perused and speeches never given. This book is essential reading for political scientists and historians of the presidency and elections as well as for undergraduate and graduate courses."—Alan R. Gitelson, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science

"Counting Every Vote is entertaining to read as well as being highly informative. Authors Dudley and Shiraev convincingly reveal how the votes of small numbers of individuals in Presidential elections can and do dramatically affect domestic policies and international relations—not on every issue, of course—but in ways that ultimately change the course of history."—Cheryl Koopman, Associate Professor, Stanford University, President of the International Society of Political Psychology

“A clever and informative ‘what if’ that makes the sometimes dry subject of American electoral history interesting and compelling reading.”—Scott Keeter, survey research director for the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

"This book will appeal to readers interested in US history as well as campaigns, elections, and presidential politics."—Choice