Ari Berman’s Give us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America traverses the legal and political terrain from the inception and passing of the Voting Rights Act to the aftermath of the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting section 4 of the VRA, making section 5 preclearance useless. This is what caused Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to assert that the abandoning of pre clearance now was akin to “throwing out an umbrella during a rainstorm because you aren’t getting wet.”
Berman’s book is exceptional in capturing the history of this issue in the Civil Rights era; the formulation of the attacks against the bill and its ultimate demise. But most telling is the way in which Berman catalogues, challenges and renders obsolete the arguments against the Voting Rights Act.
The book is engrossing and fun to read and is indeed a prescient reminder of the struggle to vote during this upcoming election. It is hard to separate the hard fought struggle and heart-wrenching defeat of civil and voting rights from the claims of Donald Trump that the election will be rigged. Trump can claim a rigged system against him all he wants. But the evidence points toward his party being the main perpetrators.
To everyone who cares about democracy, the vote and our country. This book is an essential volume to have, to read and to learn from. We cannot forget that so many of us live in places and in circumstances where our right to vote will not be challenged. But our privilege will only inculcate us from understanding the real risks that so many face. Silence in this moment and on this issue is tantamount to being on the side of those suppressing the right to vote. We cannot be silent.