Book Review: The Hidden History Of The War On Voting

The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote — and How to Get it Back by Thom Hartmann is a quick but important read for people who want or need to review the history and origins of today’s concerted, well-organized campaign to make it more difficult to vote for some while making it increasingly convenient for others.

It answers the question what can we do to ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy? It’s a page turner intended to teach us things we didn’t know about voter suppression.

Hartmann takes readers through the founders’ reasons for curbing the right to vote for Native Americans, women and slaves, the growing influence of moneyed interests beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court case Buckley vs. Valeo, the impact of Brown vs. Board of Education on voting, and more. The final section of the book offers solutions in the form of points of action to protect our fundamental right to vote.

“But isn’t Hartmann preaching to the choir?” engaged readers might ask.

What’s important about this book is it retells the story of voting in America from an actionable perspective. It is easy to read and understand with a focus on how to increase voter participation, eliminate political gerrymandering, end “voter caging,” and more.

Many of us are familiar with Ari Berman’s 2015 book Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. It is a history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which people interested in politics should read if they haven’t. What Hartmann adds to the discussion of voting rights is the history of voter disenfranchisement that is baked into our constitution, along with what readers can do to protect and restore voting rights going forward.

Thom Hartmann

In the final section of the book, Hartmann puts potential solutions to voter suppression efforts in high relief. Many people may understand aspects of his narrative already. The benefit of reading the book is its long-form and coherent narrative.

So often our ideas about voter suppression are formed by snippets of information in various media about specific aspects of the overall effort. Increasingly social media is a key driver for informing our opinions, yet it presents an incomplete picture. It is not enough. What has been lacking is a more comprehensive look at voter suppression efforts and how to combat them in easy to understand language. Hartmann delivers that and more.

I found the book empowering. Last week I met a woman advocating for D.C. statehood for a group called Iowans for D.C. Statehood. I signed up as an endorser yet told her D.C. was not enough and explained the logic Hartmann put forward in his book about adding additional states. The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote — and How to Get it Back well prepared me for the conversation.

Below is a clip of Thom Hartmann reading from his book. It will be available on Feb. 11, 2020. Click here to order your copy.

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