Are there any good general books (academic-ish) on voter supression?
February 12, 2017 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious as to whether anyone can give me some pointers for digging into the problem of voter suppression (past and present) in the USA. I'm looking for stuff that deals not just with Presidential and federal elections but how it plays out at the state and local level as well.

After an extended discussion with a couple of friends this past weekend about voter suppression, I was left wishing I knew more about the subject. Specifically, we were arguing over how extensive it is and whether it can really explain not just the 2016 presidential election outcomes but also the growth of Republican political power at the state and local levels as well. I'd picked up some random facts and bits of commentary about the subject from around the Web (including the epic political threads here on Metafilter), but as the night wore on I grew more uncomfortably aware of just how threadbare my knowledge was.

So I thought I'd ask you folks if anyone here has any pointers for someone just embarking on trying to get a solid, detailed picture on what is known about voter suppression and how it works, the nuts and bolts of it. I've picked up a couple of books on election laws and procedures more generally already. Of course I realize that the nature of the problem means that a lot of it occurs outside the limelight, I don't expect to find a book which records how X number of people were prevented from voting in Y county over the course of Z elections or anything like that. But anything that can give me a better grasp of the scope of the problem and the ways it is maintained would be welcome.
posted by AdamCSnider to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A quick search on Academic Search Premier turned up a positive review (in Election Law Journal) of this title:

Tova Andrea Wang, The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012). The first paragraph of the review by Mark Rush (Washington and Lee University):
Anyone concerned about the conduct of elections in the United States or the rules of democracy in general should read this book. The Politics of Voter Suppression by Tova Wang is a disturbing account of how members of both political parties have manipulated the American political system in order to depress voter registration and voter participation. Wang holds the Republican Party principally accountable for the contemporary suppression (or, in some cases, rejection) of votes. But, she acknowledges that both parties are to blame for what is nothing less than an assault on democracy. Throughout American history, there is ample evidence to demonstrate that both political parties have operated to suppress the activity of voters who threatened their hold on office.
A couple of other recent books address voter suppression within the broader context of voting rights and election corruption:

The voting rights war: The NAACP and the ongoing struggle for justice, by Gloria J. Browne-Marshall.

Five dollars and a pork chop sandwich: Vote buying and the corruption of democracy, by Mary Frances Berry.

They were both published in 2016 by commercial presses that tend to publish serious work (Rowman & Littlefield and Beacon, respectively).
posted by brianogilvie at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2017

I haven't read it, but you might try Ari Berman, Give Us the Ballot.
posted by Leontine at 2:42 PM on February 12, 2017

The Brennan Center has some good, shorter, resources on voting rights and voter fraud. I'll second the recommendation of Ari Berman.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2017

Seconding Ari Berman's book.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:18 PM on February 12, 2017

One area to look into is how your criminal record affects your right to vote in various states. Michelle Alexander wrote an amazing book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and it's not solely about voter suppression, but one of the things she talks about a lot is the ways in which people's right to vote is taken away from them--even after they've served their time.
posted by colfax at 1:23 AM on February 13, 2017

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