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Review: 'All In: The Fight For Democracy' A Reminder that Your Best Defense is Your Vote

by Karin McKie
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Sep 21, 2020
'All In: The Fight for Democracy'
'All In: The Fight for Democracy'  

Nothing speaks more to citizenship than being able to vote. But during this 100th anniversary year of the 19th amendment, which granted American women the right to vote, the franchise is being assaulted by insidious conservative forces.

Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes' documentary "All In: The Fight for Democracy" outlines the racist policies responsible for excluding non-white male voters through the story of Stacey Abrams' recent run for Georgia governor.

Abrams also produced the 1 hour, 42-minute film, "a spotlight on the weaponization of voter suppression tactics across America," and is interviewed alongside Eric Holder, Carol Anderson, Andrew Young, Michael Waldman, and voting history experts. She launches the exploration by noting the two choices from which politicians and parties can choose: Be more responsive to those they lead, or suppress votes by eliminating ballot box access for the people they have to answer to.

The American vote was initially only given to white male property owners, and that propensity continues today. When four million enslaved people were freed, the "Reconstruction Amendments" - 13th, 14th and 15th - addressed the expansion of those rights. But the small period of time after the Civil War, when some Black men were elected as Senators and other prominent positions, was followed by 100 years of Jim Crow laws designed to perpetuate the exclusion of minority voters.

States like Mississippi circumvented rights expansion of the 15th amendment by using poll taxes, the Black Codes that criminalized normal behavior, and literacy tests, with traps that made correct answers impossible. The film's taut history lesson continues, outlining how "returning citizens," the formerly incarcerated, are also disenfranchised, especially in Florida, despite activists' reminders that "when the debt is paid, it's paid."

In 1965 President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law to address the rampant racial and economic inequities. Subsequent Republican presidents reauthorized the act until 2013 when a Supreme Court case limited its scope. Texas immediately activated questionable voter ID laws, followed by other states, to hinder voters of color while pretending not to be racist and ageist. For instance, concealed weapon IDs were acceptable, but college IDs were not, and over 21 million Americans, 10% of the electorate, don't have government IDs. North Dakota required residential addresses for Native Americans when most reservations only use PO boxes. During Abrams' election, most African-American communities had malfunctioning voting machines, which caused eight-hour lines in some places.

In addition to voter ID barriers, racist legislators and legislatures have been enacting and escalating gerrymandering, plus closing polling sites in minority districts (while running for Georgia governor, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp closed hundreds), purging voter rolls for invalid reasons (last election, Ohio purged 2 million out of 12 million voters, and Kemp purged 1.4 million), and intimidating voters. Abrams recalls that her grandmother was afraid to vote for the first time because of the vivid history of the billy clubs and fire hoses used against Black voters. Some states are also implementing exact match signatures, which are "a terrible metric."

The film notes that Barack Obama's election brought 15 million new souls to the polls, which likely terrified modern segregationists. The white male power structure fears who and what a larger, more diverse voting base can elect. Last presidential election, Wisconsin blocked at least 23,000 voters, the same slim margin by which Trump won that state.

The U.S. already has the lowest voter turnout among democracies. The documentary reports that voter turnout is the best remedy for voter suppression. All eligible voters must register and double-check their registrations. Make a voting plan, including confirming polling locations, and voting early where possible. Don't leave a voting line until the ballot is cast.

The timely "All In" reminds viewers that the courts won't save us: People will.

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com

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