In 2017, 99 bills designed to limit access to the ballot were introduced in 31 states, more than in 2015 and 2016 combined. What’s going on with the fundamental right of voting in America? This is the question that Emory University professor and author Carol Anderson seeks to answer in One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy. The irony that the United States, which for decades lectured other nations about democracy and free and fair elections, has a long history of denying the franchise to certain voters isn’t lost on Anderson.
The book couldn’t be more timely, as evidenced by the recent midterm elections, which in some states saw long lines at polling places, malfunctioning voting machines, provisional ballots, and hotly contested vote recounts in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, along with the now-reflexive cries of voter fraud from Republicans and the White House. In meticulous detail, One Person, No Vote explains how voter suppression works, from the infamous Mississippi Plan and its discriminatory poll taxes, to modern day secretaries of state such as Kris Kobach and Brian Kemp purging thousands of eligible voters from the polls. Throw in recent Supreme Court decisions, like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, add a pinch of skillful and deliberate partisan and racial gerrymandering to the mix, and voting — at least for minorities, the poor, students, the disabled, and residents of rural areas — flips from being a constitutionally guaranteed right to a privilege.
One would think that casting a ballot in a country that takes such pride in its democracy and the rule of law would be a relatively simple matter. Instead what’s playing out are the machinations and manipulations of a political party, the GOP, that can read the demographic writing on the wall. Unable to win legitimately at the polls, the GOP rigs the game, making it as hard as possible for certain people to vote. California, Oregon, and Colorado are pushing back against the anti-democratic tide and trying to make voting easier, but as Anderson points out, “We have created a nation where democracy is simultaneously atrophying and growing — depending solely on where one lives.”