A ripped-from-the-headlines book offering copious evidence of the Republican Party’s relentless efforts to strip eligible voters of their right to cast ballots.
After providing a look back at voter suppression throughout the history of the United States, Anderson (African-American Studies/Emory Univ.)—who won the National Book Critics Circle Award for White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016), her top-notch dissection of racial issues in America—focuses on the years since 2013, when elected Republicans in the majority of states and in Congress ratcheted up their anti-democracy, racist campaign to reduce the number of black voters. The author begins by delineating the requirements imposed on voter identification at polling places. In general, the requirement to have a specific government-issued ID with an up-to-date photograph hits blacks and low-income individuals the hardest, and election officials specifying the requirements are acutely aware of that reality. As Anderson shows, they realize that voter fraud is essentially nonexistent in most locales, but they spread misinformation about the pervasive problem to defeat court challenges. In the next chapter, the author explains the inhumane and often illegal tactic of purging eligible voters from the master list. The officials often refuse to tell voters that a purge has occurred, rendering those voters helpless on election day. In her chapter “Rigging the Rules,” Anderson focuses on the pernicious creep of disenfranchisement through gerrymandering. Many opponents of more accessible voting practices distinguish artificially between race-based gerrymandering and purely political gerrymandering of legislative districts, but the author offers persuasive evidence that both forms primarily target people of color. In the concluding chapter, “At the Crossroads of Half Slave, Half Free,” Anderson connects Russian meddling in the 2016 election cycle with Republican voter suppression tactics.
Anderson is a highly praised academic who has mastered the art of gathering information and writing for a general readership, and her latest book could not be more timely.