One Person, No Vote is Carol Anderson’s examination of the systemic evisceration of voting rights, a long-term campaign that includes redistricting to minimize the voting power of African American voters, making voter registration more difficult, purging voters from the rolls, requiring identification that is more likely to be held by white voters than black voters, and voter intimidation with selective prosecution of organizers and voters.
One Person, No Vote is a relatively short book, but it is packed with history and information. The first chapter focuses on the history of voter disenfranchisement: the various schemes employed to prevent African Americans from voting during Jim Crow; the reaction to the Voting Rights Act; the many efforts to overturn the Voting Rights Act; and the series of recent Supreme Court decisions that have undercut and eviscerated voting rights. Citizens United unleashed the monied oligarchy. Shelby v Holder took enforcement power from the Voting Rights Act. Vieth allowed partisan gerrymandering.
The Supreme Court decisions unleased multiple strategies to suppress the votes of people of color and poor people, the people Republicans think will vote Democratic. Gerrymandering has become so extreme that in Wisconsin despite 190,000 more people voting for Democrats, the Republicans got nearly two/thirds of the seats. Similar strategies have allowed minority rule in Congress and in many states. Voter suppression tactics like voter purges, voter ID, persecution of organizations that register voters, and voter intimidation are rampant.
Anderson has full chapters dedicated to Voter ID and Voter Purges as they are two of the most powerful and effective ways of keeping people from voting. Once someone is prevented from voting, they often do not try again, making it an efficient strategy of discouraging a voter for life. There is another chapter that looks at things like making voter registration so restrictive organizations don’t even try. For example, the League of Women Voters stopped operations in Florida. Sometimes they close voting locations so there are longer lines or relocated polling places, even in one example, moving the town’s polling place to out of town. They restrict early voting, for example, in Indiana, smaller counties are allowed multiple early voting sites, but the big cities are not. That’s the opposite of sensible.
The last chapters are on resistance and moving forward. Even they are depressing.
Anderson’s One Person, No Vote is a powerful indictment of our democracy and shows how much we have allowed democratic values to be undermined. Anderson struggles to find hope and suggestions for improvement, but when I finished the book, I felt dispirited. In the end, Anderson made me feel despair. I really want to feel resolve and hope, but there seems so little room for hope. The successful example of resistance was Alabama and Doug Jones’ victory. Anderson shows the important grassroots organizing that brought Jones to victory but Roy Moore was a uniquely flawed candidate and despite that, it took brilliant and long-term organizing to defeat him. Perhaps if she had included a few other surprise victories in special elections that were against candidates who weren’t unindicted sex offenders might have been more inspiring of hope.
This is an important book and one we need to take to heart. We need to rebuild our democracy and it might have left me more helpful if Anderson had mentioned Obama and Holder’s efforts on redistricting. We need something to hold onto or we won’t have the will to do the work.
I received a copy of One Person, No Vote from the publisher through NetGalley