Keeping Down the Black Vote

Race and the Demobilization of American Voters

A controversial examination of how our political system, despite “Get Out the Vote” rhetoric, works to suppress the vote—especially the votes of African Americans

“Karl Rove began to impress upon leading Republicans . . . that . . . one way to address the party’s electoral problem . . . was to suppress black and Hispanic turnout—a task that would become far easier if the airwaves were buzzing with news of voter-fraud indictments.”
—Harold Myerson, The Washington Post

Today, over forty years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 demolished bars to voting for African Americans, the effort to prevent black people—as well as Latinos and the poor in general—from voting is experiencing a resurgence. A myriad of new tactics, some of which adopt the mantle of “election reform,” has evolved to suppress the vote. In this sharply argued new book, three of America’s leading experts on party politics and elections demonstrate that our political system is as focused on stopping people from voting as on getting Americans to go to the polls.

In recent years, the Republican Party, the Bush administration, and the conservative movement have devoted a remarkable amount of effort to controlling election machinery (the scandal over federal prosecutors was in part over their refusal to gin up election-fraud cases). But Keeping Down the Black Vote shows that the effort to rig the system is as old as American political parties themselves, and race is at the heart of the game.