Historian Carol Anderson On Voter Suppression

“It comes in a series of policies, dealing with voter ID laws, gerrymandering, poll closures, cutting out early voting, and it is lethal to American democracy.”

Carol Anderson is a Charles Howard Candler professor of African American studies at Emory University. She is also a historian who focuses on issues like human rights, civil rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her book, “One Person, No Vote,” explains how suppression is destroying our democracy. During an interview with NowThis, Anderson gave an in depth explanation about the history of voter suppression and how it still plagues voter turnout today.

“This kind of silent, quiet bureaucratic violence, where policies are wiping out the voting rights of millions of Americans, that's the piece that is absolutely stunning for my students,” she explained. “My students, when we talk about voter suppression, the first thing that hits them is that this isn't a thing that we're talking about in the past with the Mississippi Plan of 1890. Or this isn't something that we're talking about pre-Selma in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. But it's something that is happening now in America and it is something that is wiping out communities of voters.”

Anderson reiterated how voter suppression is both subtle and overt in the U.S. and still serves to stifle Balck voices from being heard at the polls.

“It happened when student IDs, from state universities, weren't counted as viable government-issued IDs. You see it happening in Texas, where, at Prairie View, they limited the number of early voting days and the number of machines at Prairie View A&M, so that the surrounding county had more time and more machines than did this large HBCU, historically black college and university, did in Texas.You see it in North Carolina, where in this gerrymandered district, they drew a line right through the middle of the campus so on this side of the campus is one congressional district, on this side is another. A way to, again, dilute the power of the student vote,” she explained. “I love teaching because my students began to see and realize the power that they have to change the world, and one of those things is voting. And so, I see voter registration happening, I see educational, informational sessions happening, where they're talking about, this is voter suppression, this is how we overcome it.”

In response to the suppression, however, Anderson says she’s noticing “a kind of activism happening,” which will help the country form a democracy it deserves.

“We have to overwhelm the polls, we have to turn out in droves. We have to turn out in near full capacity. Check your Secretary of State's webpage to check your voter registration because you could be wiped off and not even know it, until you get to the polls and by then it's too late,” she explained. “I check my voter registration and I make a copy of it, so I've got a paper copy, so just in case. I mean, and this is where we are. This is what we must do to protect our right to vote. This is citizen-driven, this is people-driven, and this is civil society-driven. This is how we get our democracy back.”

To find out more about your voting rights and confirm you are registered to vote, visit www.vote.org.

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