Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America

Ari Berman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374158-27-9
Berman (Herding Donkeys) does a superb job of making the history of the right to vote in America not only easily understandable, but riveting. After recounting the story of the civil rights movement’s success in getting President Johnson to push the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Berman traces the erosion of that legislation over the subsequent half-century. Early appearances in the narrative by John Roberts and Samuel Alito foreshadow their eventual posture when they were named to the Supreme Court. Lay readers are likely to be surprised at how much successful pushback has occurred against what should be the basic right of democracy. Berman also makes clear that the illegal purging of supposed felons from Florida’s voting lists for the 2000 presidential election is more likely than the “butterfly ballot” to have been responsible for George W. Bush’s victory. This is the best kind of popular history—literate, passionate, and persuasive, balancing detail with accessibility. B&w illus. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 08/04/2015
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