TIE Resources for Election Season: Voting Rights and the Constitution

Banner representing voting and the Constitution

This election season, Toward Inclusive Excellence is proud to provide our readers with comprehensive guides to understanding voting rights and the United States Constitution from DEAI perspectives. Sourced from experts in the academy, these previously published lists compile relevant resources on voter suppression, the roots of the Constitution and the Supreme Court, and efforts to defend democracy. Due to popular demand, we have compiled these resources together in one location for readers’ convenience. There is much to learn about the idiosyncrasies of American democracy from these resource lists:

1. DEIA Resources on Voting Rights

2. Resources for Understanding the Constitution from a DEIA Perspective

Some highlights from each resource list include:

Book cover of Ballot Blocked

Ballot Blocked: The Political Erosion of the Voting Rights Act (2017) by Jesse H. Rhodes

Reviewed in CHOICE February 2018

During its 50-year history, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) has been consistently renewed and expanded by Congress with overwhelming support from Democratic and Republican members of Congress. Surprisingly, this has happened while those same Republicans have become increasingly conservative and increasingly hostile to the principles of the VRA. Rhodes (Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst) addresses this puzzle by reminding readers that while Congress is the public face of policy making, the presidency and the Supreme Court play policy-making roles. By voting in favor of the renewal of VRA, members of Congress can present a face to their constituents that they support civil rights while simultaneously working with the executive and judiciary to break down the act’s provisions. Rhodes carefully describes how this has happened in four periods of the VRA’s history. This engaging account of the process of the dismantling of this historic piece of legislation is carefully supported, tightly analyzed, and beautifully written. In addition to solving a perplexing (and important) puzzle regarding the state of voting rights in the US, it also provides a fascinating perspective on the real workings of separation of powers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —T. Marchant-Shapiro, Southern Connecticut State University

Book cover of Bending toward Justice

Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (2013) by Gary May

Reviewed in CHOICE October 2013

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a seminal achievement of the civil rights movement and of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. Intended to ensure African Americans unconditional voting rights, the act transformed US politics; it has also come under fire since its passage nearly a half century ago. May’s analysis examines three stages of the act’s development. The first involves the voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, which included two pivotal moments in the civil rights movement: the Bloody Sunday confrontation in March 1965 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the march from Selma to Montgomery. The second considers the legislative history of the bill. The third encompasses actions to undermine the act’s effectiveness by suppressing votes, diminishing enforcement, gerrymandering, and forestalling renewal. May (Univ. of Delaware) focuses on Selma rather than surveying efforts in Mississippi and elsewhere more broadly to register African American voters, though the centrality of Selma in forcing the issue justifies this choice. The subsequent fate of the Voting Rights Act is the most innovative, provocative, and troubling section of the book, and justifies May’s conclusion that the act’s history involves a continuing struggle of “reform and reaction, advance and retreat.” Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —A. J. Dunar, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Book cover of The Case Against the Supreme Court

The Case Against the Supreme Court (2014) by Erwin Chemerinsky

Reviewed in CHOICE March 2015

Chemerinsky (Univ. of California, Irvine School of Law) provides a compelling argument that the US Supreme Court has failed at meeting its two main objectives—protecting minority rights and upholding the US Constitution.  Whether readers agree with the author’s position or not, it is clear that the argument is thoroughly researched, well articulated, and incredibly thought provoking.  All the essential legal issues are discussed, and the author even contemplates removing the power of judicial review and other major changes in how the institution is structured.  Many scholars interpret the Supreme Court’s actions through an ideological lens, so the author should be applauded for being relatively impartial.  The book is an important contribution, but it will still be unconvincing to those scholars who argue that the Supreme Court is a product of the times in which the justices live and that the Court follows election returns or who believe that Chemerinsky is arguing for judicial activism (judges make the law and destroy the Constitution by taking away too much power from the elected branches). Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections. —B. W. Monroe, Prairie View A&M University

Book cover of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights

From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (2004) by Michael J. Klarman

Reviewed in CHOICE November 2004

This volume is a multidisciplinary study of civil rights in the US from the Plessey case in 1896 through the Brown case and the Civil Rights Movement. Law professor Klarman (Univ. of Virginia) places significant court cases in their historical contexts in respect to public opinion, the racial and constitutional views of the justices, and the limits of constitutional law to cause change. The historical context is thoroughly recounted through reviews of causal factors that led public opinion, justices, and court procedures and practices to change. Major causes of change include WW II, the Cold War, African American migration to the North, the increase in black political power, and the education of the public. Though Klarman’s organization results in some repetition, the thoroughness of his presentations is rewarding reading. This very useful study is a happy combination of constitutional law and civil rights history with political science and sociology added for good measure. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Most levels/collections. —L. H. Grothaus, Concordia University

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