16 Jan 2023


Give us the Ballot: The Campaign for Voting Rights in America

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Book Report

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Equality in most civilizations did not happen by accident. The struggles that lead to the modern and equitable society are being experienced today. Many years back in America, the black were not allowed to take part in elections. They were segregated based on color. In this paper, an author by the name Ari Berman is discussed. He is an author of the book titled give us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for voting rights in America. An analysis of the book and a little biography of the author are presented in this paper. A further analysis of the theme contained in the book is presented. Lastly, this article concludes by explaining the relevance of the book in the modern society and how it has transformed the politics of the United States of America. 

Ari Berman, the author of the book "Give us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for voting rights in America," is a senior radical columnist for the Nation and investigative jour­nalism fellow at the Nation Institute. He has been named by the Business Insider as one of the top mist rated political analysts who write extensively about the politics of America (Issacharoff, 2012) . In his writings, Ari Berman presents a compelling exploration of the strug­gle for African Americans to obtain voting rights in America, as promised in the book's title. What is even more impressive, though, is that he can hammer home the fact that the struggle to vote, while pervasive throughout the history of the United States, persists to this day. Ari Berman other publications have been published in leading newspapers such as The Rolling Stone, Politico, The Guardian and The New Yolk Times. For many years Ari Berman has been lecturing in many institutions across the United States of America and at some point talked the white house, the supreme court and the congress on various issues affecting the political landscape of America. In particular, he details the alarming periodic assaults on the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and concludes with the retrograde motion by the U.S. Supreme Court in its infamous decision, Shelby County v. Holder . Even well-informed readers who are not experts on the subject will be appalled by the endless struggle of African Americans to obtain a fundamental right that has been ostensibly granted again and again. If Berman's intent is to enlighten and infuriate readers, he has done a superb job. It is well nigh impossible to finish this book and remain unchanged by its soul-wrenching plea for African American voting rights in a progressive, rather than regressive, society. 

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Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America begins with "The Second Emancipation," a chapter on the civil rights movement and President Johnson's endorsement of the right to vote for African-Americans. As projected, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy (Penn, 2009) , and John Lewis figure heavily in the narrative, as does their arch-nemesis, George Wallace (Lawson, 2011) . Berman dedi ­cates much of the chapter to chronicling the events leading up to the confrontation in Selma, along with the passage of the original Voting rights act in 1965 (Issacharoff, 2012) . While the Right to vote t o serve her­alded promise of African American power at the polls, the reality was altogether different. Insurmountable, illegal, and arbitrary literacy tests became additional obstacles, as did reprisals against black voters. While the Voting rights act guaranteed at least in theory the right to vote of black United States of America citizens, creative gerrymandering diluted their ability to elect their desired leaders. Tragically, this impediment persists, despite multiple iterations and affirmations of the voting rights act. 

Berman astutely makes his case in subsequent chapters as well. Titles such as “The Second Reconstruction,” “The Counterrevolution,” “Challenging the Con­sensus," and "The Realignment," among others, emphasize that change has been largely illusory and clearly lacking as structural reform. One constant, though, has been the continuing challenge to section five of the Voting rights act. According to Berman, section five was the voting rights act’s most important implementation establishment, the instrument that permitted the federal government to ensure that the regulation did not meet the similar cruel outcome as Reconstruction, which lasted only twelve years afore federal troops drawn out of the South (Persily, 2009) . In brief, section five offers the implementation mechanism. Sadly, following strategies have to remove the guts from section five to such an extent that, under the pretext of guarding states' rights to forge and determine election policies, section 5 has mostly been eradicated (Baubock, 2010)

In the chapter, so aptly titled "Old Poison, New Bottles," Berman emphasizes the full reality that the struggle continues. One need only considers the relatively recent controversy regarding voter identification card laws to recognize that, in essence, poll taxes are alive and well. Voter identification cards laws unduly burden minority voters of lower socioeco­nomic status who might be less likely to hold official government identification cards, such as driver’s licenses. Accordingly, such voters would need to travel to the appropriate agencies and pay the requisite fees to obtain the documents, assuming they are realistically in a position to do so at all. Thus, old forms of voter oppression have not been exterminated; rather, they continue to reappear in new, deeply unset­tling permutations and combinations (Persily, 2009)

Finally, Berman excoriates Shelby County and its aftermath. In Shelby County, the Court infamously refused to uphold the constitutionality of section five of the voting rights act. In essence, the majority opinion blithely undermined the long-term struggle for the right to vote in America. The fact that this chilling verdict was handed down a mere three years ago should terrify any proponent of constitutionally pro­tected the right to vote in America. And that is the ultimate force and wisdom of this superb book (Penn, 2009) . The more things change, it see ms, the more they stay the same if we passively permit them to do so. In the end, every academic library should acquire Give Us the Ballot , and every legal academic should hasten to read it. Verily, we shall be changed. 

The book covers several themes. Majorly the issue of democracy is extensively involved in the book. For many years black Americans were denied the rights to participate in elections. No black American was allowed to vie for any political seat. Color seemed to the first qualification for anyone to be cleared to vie for any political seat. Blacks Africans were seen as subjects and were to be ruled by the whites who formed a majority of the population in America. Ari Berman explains how black Americans for many yeas were oppressed and denied freedom of expression, association or assembly (Penn, 2009) . After many years of oppression, the black Americans started to have some form of self-consciousness. They organized themselves and began to champion for their rights. They held for demonstration and self-awareness procession to sensitize all black Americans about their rights. The formation organizations to champion for Africa rights marked a new beginning for black Americans. The movement was so great that the federal and state governments became alarmed by the turn of events. New legislations that were to allow Africans to take part in elections were initiated. The Congress formulated laws that changed clauses that had made black Americans not vote nor vie for elective political seats (Lawson, 2011) . The changing of the rules was a milestone achievement and it what lead to having black Americans elected to the represent the people both in the state government and the state government. 

The book contains critical connections to the current state of politics in America. It through the initiatives that the black Americans started that have seen a black Americans elected to both the Congress and the state government (Issacharoff, 2012) . The movement created awareness across the world that led to the introduction of the one man one vote policies in America and other parts of the world. Through the initiatives, institutional reforms were carried out that included changing of laws to allow Africans take part in elections as well us being considered for top white collar jobs in American. Black Americans were found to be equal to the whites while seeking for jobs (Baubock, 2010) . The law was also changed to recognize black Americans as having equal rights as the whites. 

The book has a great relevance in today’s politics and the general organization of the society today. Issues to do with equality have been advanced because of the awareness that was created in a quest to be given voting rights in America. Currently, many blacks Americans are being elected serve in both the state and federal governments without discrimination. The current president of the United States of America happens to be a black because the black Americans are considered equal to the whites. Had the movement not begun, the current politics of America could still be a preserve of the whites. Institutional reforms have also been carried out to ensure equality of both blacks and whites in the society. Currently, both the blacks and the whites go to same schools, hospitals and other social places without discrimination. The universal suffrage principles have had a significant impact on the American democracy, and this has informed many policies currently in America. 


Bauböck, R. (2012). Expansive citizenship—voting beyond territory and membership. Political Science and Politics , 38 (04), 683-687. 

Issacharoff, S. (201 (Baubock, 2010) 2). Polarized voting and the political process: The transformation of the right to vote jurisprudence. Michigan Law Review , 90 (7), 1833-1891. 

Lawson, S. F. (2011). Black Ballots: Voting rights in the South, 1944-1969 . Lexington Books. 

Penn, E. M. (2009). A model of farsighted voting. American Journal of Political Science , 53 (1), 36-54. 

Persily, N. (2009 (Lawson, 2011) ). The promise and pitfalls of the new Voting Rights Act. The Yale Law Journal , 174-254. 

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