Review of Why Americans Don’t Vote by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward

Wills, Garry

New York Review of Books, August 18, 1988

p. 3

Even today, the influential don’t really want the poor to vote. “Voting is treated as a privilege in our society, to be wielded by the privileged.” Governments make it hard to register and hard to vote. You have to be literate, alert, and ready to be inconvenienced in order to win through. When in 1983 the authors set up SERVE (Service Employees’ Registration and Voter Information) to help set up registration centers where the poor are (in day care centers, food stamp centers, welfare centers, unemployment centers) state legislatures and the Reagan administration swung into action against the program. Back in 1964, during debate on the Great Society’s Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, “Democratic and Republican mayors alike lobbied Congress for explicit prohibitions on voter registration activities by antipoverty agencies. The distinction between the socially serviced and the self-governing was to be underlined, not minimized.”