Newsrooms Play A Relevant Role In Preventing Voter Suppression

Worries mount about a possible damaged election.

Are they fact or fiction?

Newsrooms, if they’re Relevant, should be answering that question in their towns, cities, counties, state and, yes, country.

I find myself reading all the news stories I can about election preparations, the ballot controversies and changes at polling places.

Eligible voters should count.

But never assume, especially in 2020.

To add to my research, I just finished Carol Anderson’s 2018 book (with a 2019 Afterword), “One Person, No Vote.” It’s also the latest recommendation for the book club of alumni at Virginia Commonwealth University, where I earned a master’s degree.

Anderson’s subtitle is “How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.”

The author, who is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, makes a convincing case that manipulation to prevent African-Americans and other minorities from voting remains an urgent threat.

“It’s puzzling only if you don’t understand how the various methods of voter suppression actually work,” Anderson writes. She presents the hard-hitting facts and stories on how it has been done. (About a third of the book are Anderson’s notes and sources.)

Unfortunately, history repeats itself.

“One Person, No Vote” conditions you to analyze candidates’ maneuvers on voter qualifications, election boards’ actions on where people can vote, and patterns in recent elections to reveal racial discrimination or anomalies that caused victory or defeat.

Also, if you’re skeptical about legitimate elections in the South, given the region’s sordid past, the research findings are stunning — especially if you live in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Texas.

One dog whistle is a politician who says voting is a privilege rather than a right. “Voting is neither an obstacle course nor a privilege,” Anderson writes in “The Resistance” chapter. “It’s a right.”

It’s a right, cemented by the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (though gutted in recent years, Anderson writes). The author of “White Rage” indicates that the rights/privilege debate is a clue privilege-thumping politicians see voter suppression as a route to victory.

Some of the maneuvers are blatant — moving or closing poll places right before an election, purging people from voting rolls without adequate notice, requiring photo identification but making it difficult to get it, redistricting to keep incumbent in office, and restricting poll hours in towns that have factories or plants with employees who can’t leave work on Election Day. It’s a long list, and the blame is leveled at Republicans.

Anderson’s book is a wake-call to protect the sanctity — and sanity — of elections before people vote. Cleanup after Election Day is much harder. She also includes several stories where the resistances to voter suppression have won. These fights are far from over.

“In 2018, the people and civil society, therefore, had to ‘warrior up’ and fight an arguably wealthier, entrenched, and more powerful opponent,” Anderson concludes. “If they hadn’t, if they hadn’t exclaimed that ‘we are the defenders,’ there wouldn’t even be a hope of a United States of America in 2020.”

Newsrooms, investigate. Lift up democracy.

—TAS

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