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The Fight to Vote

Brennan Center president Michael Waldman’s “The Fight to Vote” is the first to trace the full story of voting rights in America, from the Founders’ debates to today’s challenges.

Published: February 22, 2016

The Fight to Vote




"Wald­man’s import­ant and enga­ging account demon­strates that over the long term, the power of the demo­cratic ideal prevails — as long as the people so demand.” — The Wash­ing­ton Post

“An import­ant history in an elec­tion year”—The Miami Herald
“An enga­ging, concise history of Amer­ican voting prac­tices…” — The Wall Street Journal
“Wald­man draws a clear picture full of amus­ing anec­dotes of voting and voting rights over the past 228 years. He demon­strates how the polit­ical estab­lish­ment, fear­ing change, usually has been behind the people on this ques­tion.” — Buffalo News
"[An] import­ant book…Wald­man’s bracing account of voting rights and polit­ical equal­ity arrives right on time for the 2016 pres­id­en­tial campaign.” — Book­list, Starred Review
“A compel­ling—and disheart­en­ing—his­tory of voting in Amer­ica… Wald­man urges citizens to find a way to celeb­rate demo­cracy and rein­vig­or­ate polit­ical engage­ment for all. A timely contri­bu­tion to the discus­sion of a crucial issue.” — Kirkus Reviews


“With the Voting Rights Act under threat, it’s good to have a book that clari­fies how tough getting—and keep­ing—that right has some­times been.”— Library Journal

“Wald­man offers histor­ical perspect­ive on the fierce debate… A lively and enga­ging explor­a­tion.”— Book­list

“Michael Wald­man’s masterly history reminds us that ‘We the People’ can and must restore our exper­i­ment in Consti­tu­tional free­dom.” — Pulitzer-prize-winning author Taylor Branch, author of Amer­ica in the King Years

“The Fight to Vote is an import­ant and power­ful reminder that we forget Amer­ican history at our peril: that demo­cracy was hard-won and that with the right to vote once again under attack, it’s ours to lose.”  Linda Green­house, Knight Distin­guished Journ­al­ist in Resid­ence and Joseph Gold­stein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School

“Through this book, Michael Wald­man deliv­ers a message every Amer­ican needs to hear. The struggle for the right to vote is not over. It is still being waged even today. We must use it or we can lose it.” — The Honor­able John Lewis, United States House of Repres­ent­at­ives


Michael Wald­man, author of The Second Amend­ment: A Biography and Pres­id­ent of the Bren­nan Center for Justice, is a lead­ing law scholar and public policy activ­ist. In his new book, THE FIGHT TO VOTE (Simon & Schuster; Hard­cover; Feb 23, 2016; $28), Wald­man takes a succinct and compre­hens­ive look at a crucial Amer­ican struggle: the drive to define and defend govern­ment based on “the consent of the governed.” There is no other book like it – a current, read­able history of voting rights in the United States. Wald­man traces the full story from the Founders’ debates to today’s chal­lenges: a wave of restrict­ive voting laws, partisan gerry­manders, and the flood of campaign money unleashed by Citizens United

As we enter the 2016 elec­tions, Wald­man’s book is a needed reminder that voting rights have never been — and are still not — a guar­an­tee. Wald­man emphas­izes that the fight to vote has been at the center of Amer­ican polit­ics since the nation’s found­ing: “It didn’t start at Selma,” he notes. From the begin­ning, and at every step along the way, as Amer­ic­ans sought the right to vote, others have fought to stop them.  Rauc­ous debates over how to expand demo­cracy have always been a part of Amer­ican polit­ics. We continue to see the issue come up this year: Hillary Clin­ton has shown a high-profile embrace of demo­cracy reform, advoc­at­ing for univer­sal, auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion; Bernie Sanders rails against Super-PACs and wealthy campaign donors that obstruct popu­lar repres­ent­a­tion; Donald Trump boasts about his inde­pend­ently financed campaign — but warns about voter fraud.

In THE FIGHT TO VOTE, Wald­man addresses these hot button issues while provid­ing a much needed context of the history behind voting rights and the varied attempts to expand (and limit) those rights over the years. Vari­ous groups and indi­vidu­als have affected elec­tion laws in Amer­ica since the nation was foun­ded. As Wald­man writes, “Through their stor­ies, this book focuses on key moments, turn­ing points when contro­versy even­tu­ally yiel­ded a lurch forward — or when the coun­try actu­ally moved back­ward.  I believe we are at such an inflec­tion point today.”