The five ways Republicans will crack down on voting rights in 2020Roundup
tags: political history, Voting Rights Act, voting rights
Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University, a Guardian contributor, and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.
America hangs in the balance. The elections in November next year will determine whether the United States continues down the road of authoritarian dynastic rule or reclaims the work of expanding and improving our democracy. Those are the choices.
That expansion was born out of the civil war, which left 1.2 million dead or wounded, but resulted in the 15th amendment, which made clear that the right to vote could not be denied or hampered because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The subsequent struggles led to women’s right to vote, opening the franchise to those 18 and over, and the “single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress,” the Voting Rights Act, which protected the franchise from states with a demonstrated history of racial and linguistic discrimination.
But in 2013, the supreme court declared that racism was essentially a thing of the past and gutted the Voting Rights Act. The results have been calamitous. More than half the states passed a series of voter suppression laws that targeted minority voters, breached a key firewall that protected American democracy, and greased the pathway to install a man in the White House whose racism, greed, and unfitness for office was well known.
What’s become clear over the course of three harrowing years is that the only real effective throttle that has slowed down the nation’s descent into authoritarian rule has been the throng of engaged, determined voters. The turnout in the 2018 midterm election, the highest since 1914, aided by a massive effort of civil rights organizations, was so overwhelming that control of the House of Representatives flipped to the Democrats and accountability finally began to creep back into the political landscape. As Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “The last line of defense against a lawless, oathless president is the electoral process.”
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