'The Worst Thing That Has Happened to Our Democratic Election System'

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Map from the Lawyers' Commitee on Civil Rights Under Law. Full-size version here.

Andrew Cohen has been doing a formidable job of covering what is otherwise a substantially under-covered theme in this election year: the efforts to disenfranchise large numbers of voters, especially in swing states. Here are four sample installments in recent months: last week, earlier this month, in late August, and another just before that. Plus, this interview with voting-rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis. Our Garrett Epps has also been on the case, recently and notably here and here. [Map via PFAW.] [Also see this strong ongoing series from TPM.]

If you're still not sold, please check out this new essay by Elizabeth Drew, called "Voting Wrongs," for the New York Review of Books. Those familiar with Drew's works over the decades* will know that she is not given to dramatically hyperbolic overstatement. But here is what she says at the end her piece, emphasis added:
Having covered Watergate and the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more recently written a biography of Nixon, I believe that the wrongdoing we are seeing in this election is more menacing even than what went on then. [During] Watergate... the president and his aides attempted to interfere with the nominating process of the opposition party. But the current voting rights issue is even more serious: it's a coordinated attempt by a political party to fix the result of a presidential election by restricting the opportunities of members of the opposition party's constituency--most notably blacks--to exercise a Constitutional right.

This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Worth reading the whole thing. Or, there's always Sarah Silverman.**
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* I started reading her Washington coverage when I was in college and she was the Washington Editor of the Atlantic, a role in which she was succeeded by Sanford Ungar and then me. Back in those days, efforts to restrict voting rights were associated with last-gasp outright segregationists in the old South. Everywhere else, maximizing voter turnout and voter participation was assumed to be an unambiguous civic good.

** Profanity alert, as you might have guessed.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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