In 2018 I saw Carol Anderson speak about One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy. I’d just spent my first campaign season knocking doors to canvass for candidates I cared about. Anderson’s talk convinced me that voter suppression is the most important voting rights issue of our time. And yet, in the wild news days that followed, it felt overwhelming to read her book.
That sense of overwhelm hasn’t changed for me. But putting it off for one more week also began to feel wrong. And posting a review almost exactly a year after the death of civil rights pioneer and U.S. House Representative John Lewis is fitting.
If you need voter suppression fundamentals explained all in one place and with clarity, this is the book to read. Anderson walks readers through the history. But more importantly, she explains why the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision on Shelby v. Holder devastated voting rights.
And then she gives example after example of how states are deconstructing the Voting Rights Act. Of course, it doesn’t include anything recent. To see that, just open any news site in your browser. Anderson gives you the tools to see what is and isn’t suppression.
If this is a topic you already follow, Anderson reminds you of countless previous news stories and opinion essays. But if you need to get your arms around the topic, I heartily recommend this book. You will understand all the important topics from gerrymandering to voter roll purges to rule changes that disenfranchise voters of color.
Anderson’s writing, research, and historical correlations are crystal clear. And of course, the evidence is absolutely damning. The Republican Party is the party of suppression, from local and state officials all the way to the top officials in charge.
As Anderson says, “Voting is neither an obstacle course nor a privilege. It’s a right.” (p. 148, hardcover edition)
Pair this with one of John Lewis’s books on his life and this topic. His memoir Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement is masterful. Or try Buses Are a Comin’: Memoir of a Freedom Rider by Charles Person, which is less sweeping but no less impactful.