Rogers and Grebner were coming from a different set of questions but arriving at a similar understanding of what drove political activity. No one decided to vote in a vacuum, and interpersonal interactions mattered. In fact, their psychologically minded tests and feints were moving toward something that felt very familiar to Gerber. Rogers’s project to promote voting as popular and Grebner’s threats to expose scofflaws had, if only briefly, reconstructed small corners of late-nineteenth-century America, where voting was a community activity. Since writing his dissertation about the introduction of the secret ballot, Gerber had spent much of his time trying to isolate the slightest ways to increase turnout in the system it had created. In Gerber’s eyes, the nineteenth century, where men packed onto courthouse steps to select their leaders with raised hands or words bellowed over the din, represented a kind of Edenic political space of widespread participation.
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