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A few years ago the Voting Rights Act was partially nullified. While people expected that there would be repercussions I'm not sure if people understood the very devastating effects voter suppression would have on the electorate. This book is a look at the history of voter suppression and how it affects elections.
Author Roth looks at the history of voting in the US. Who gets it, when did they get it, how and why certain groups took so long to get the ballot, etc. He looks at certain cases of how elections were affected. He also examines the attitudes behind it of the left vs. the right and how that plays into voter suppression.
Having already read 'Give Us the Ballot' and unfortunately being VERY familiar with what happens when votes are suppressed none of this book was a surprise. If you have a basic familiarity with the material and the concept then none of this should surprise you. Which unfortunately was a bit of a detriment for the book. Unlike 'Give' this book is not as good as giving a more comprehensive history of the fight against voter suppression. This is more of voter suppression itself. Which was interesting but if you've kept up with this news you'd be familiar with some of these stories.
I agree with some critical reviews out there: the book is too long at about 180 pages. The author is a journalist so I suspect this might have been a magazine longread stretched to too long a book. His style is not one that I care for. I'm not so sure about the bias arguments though. Voter suppression is something aimed at very particular groups who tend to be poorer and have less mobility in some fashion to get to the polling place or to get their ID to even vote. There are statistics, reporting, anecdotes that all bear this out. It's why there's a Voting Rights Act.
I think there is some good material here but 'Give' is probably the better book on this topic. So I'd recommend picking this up at the local library if you remain interested in the subject. It's also very topical so if you want to read something directly related to the election or to get ready for the next one this would be quite fitting.
With the Voting Rights Act under fire and constant stories of electoral fraud (voters, machine glitches, lines cut off, names incorrect on ballot sheets, etc.), voting and the struggle to increase its accessibility has been a constant struggle. This book was supposed to trace the the US from the VRA to modern times, looking at the civil rights movements, political developments, the struggles and more. Unfortunately, it's really hard for me to get through.
Berman takes the reader though a history of the US through the struggle of voting from the VRA to the summer of 2014. He looks at it from presidents to activists to Congressman and more. It's informative, it's history that I did not know and wish I had learned at school. But it was like wading through molasses. The problem for me is that the author is journalist, and with many other books that are written by journalists it seems like the book is great in sections and in stops and starts, but sometimes it reads like a too-long magazine/newspaper article, which is the case here.
People will dislike the book because of the author's slant (He's a reporter at 'The Nation') but for me that really wasn't it. I wanted to enjoy this, or at least find it readable. It seems people liked it but I just couldn't get into it. He tries to weave the story of Congressman John Lewis (known for his work on civil rights) into the book. And while I understand that device, the book became a list of too many people, too many names, and while Lewis drops in and out as our anchor, I just felt Berman couldn't connect it together very well.
I normally don't have this much trouble reading non-fiction books written by journalists, but for me I really wish journalists would work with stronger book editors if they decide to switch gears and write a book. Recommend the library and hope you get more out of it than I did