A law professor examines the persistent measures that still hinder citizens of color and the elderly from voting in America.
There is a sad sense of history’s repeating itself in this focused, hard-hitting, and highly relevant work, which moves from the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, which effectively tore down hindrances to voting in the South, to today’s newly erected voter suppression tools by the states. How could this happen? The culprit, as Daniels (Univ. of Baltimore School of Law) delineates, was the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder decision, in which “the Court found part of the [VRA] unconstitutional and removed protections from a majority of the South.” Hence, where the VRA had abolished literacy tests and poll taxes and provided voter registrars in “recalcitrant jurisdictions throughout the South,” new restrictions have been implemented in certain counties and states across the country. These include the early closing of polling places, the introduction of new voter ID laws (on Latinx voters especially), voter intimidation and deception, and the purging of voters from rolls (usually because a person hadn’t voted in the past). Daniels sees these efforts as Republican measures to suppress the opposition—i.e., burgeoning minority communities that often vote Democrat. As she notes, “while whites enjoy overrepresentation at the ballot box, minority communities are younger and growing faster than white communities.” The author examines each of these factors in specific chapters with an eye toward the legal ramifications, but she also offers plenty of useful real-world examples. She humanizes this dreary depiction by illustrating the case of her grandmother, who grew up in rural Louisiana and lived through the restrictions to voting during the Jim Crow era; today, she still faces restrictions because she could not produce a birth certificate.
An accessible human story of a longtime history of voter suppression.