Monday, June 25, 2012

The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book) , by Tova Andrea Wang

The Politics of Voter Suppression 
Cornell University Press, ISBN 9780801450853, August 2012

Wang gives us both a history of voter suppression tactics in the USA since the end of Reconstruction, and a strong case for the illegitimacy of voter suppression as a means of partisan competition.

Some will remember at least some key facts about the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent African-Americans from voting in the post-Reconstruction era. Even those readers may be startled at the extent of the suppression and the strength of its effects, as well as parallel efforts in northern states to limit the votes of "undesirables" there. Wang follows the evolution in both tactics and in who was interested in suppressing whom.

This is not a partisan book; it is, in fact, a rather dry academic study in most respects. Some will interpret it as partisan, unfortunately, because at the present time, one party is far more interested than the other party in gaining advantage by suppressing the votes of those who are likely to vote against them. At the present time, the other party has been far more interested in gaining advantage by bringing non-voting citizens into the process.

As Wang makes clear, the difference between these two approaches is not trivial. One approach damages the democratic project; the other, even when pursued for partisan advantage, strengthens it. This is a timely and important read, and I strongly recommend it.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.