The Cost To Cast A Ballot This week: why people don't vote, why people can't vote, and two state races that might have national implications for 2020.
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The Cost To Cast A Ballot

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The Cost To Cast A Ballot

The Cost To Cast A Ballot

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SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

And I'm Gene Demby. The midterm elections will be seen as a referendum on the first two years of the Trump administration. I can't believe it's only been two years. It feels like a lot longer than that, Shereen.

MERAJI: It actually feels like we've been talking about the midterm elections for two years.

DEMBY: Right, since November 2016.

MERAJI: And as we know, midterm elections are usually low-turnout affairs. But this November looks like it's going to be very different. Election Day might actually give us a sense of the country's mood headed into 2020. Or let me rephrase that - headed into next spring when the people running for president start declaring their candidacies.

DEMBY: Yup, because we live in the era of the perpetual campaign, y'all.

MERAJI: All politics, all the time.

DEMBY: All the time. On this episode - why people don't vote and why more and more people can't vote. We're going to zoom in on two state races that might have very big implications for the rest of the country. If Stacey Abrams wins next month, she will be the first black governor in the history of Georgia and the first black woman to be governor of a state in the history of the United States.

MERAJI: God. I'm sorry, that's surprising to me. It's 2018.

DEMBY: It's 2018, y'all.

MERAJI: Another surprising thing is that Andrew Gillum is vying to become the first black governor in the history of Florida. Abrams and Gillum are taking two different approaches, and their campaigns mirror the heated debates among Democrats about the best way to win the White House in 2020. And Gene, you talked about this with our colleagues Asma Khalid and Domenico Montanaro. They cover politics for NPR, and y'all may know them from the NPR Politics Podcast.

DEMBY: Welcome to CODE SWITCH, y'all.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Our pleasure.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Yeah, thanks for having us.

DEMBY: So there are a lot of fascinating races going on around the country right now. Let's talk about the big trends, some of the races that you guys are watching that you're especially interested in. What are you guys paying attention to right now?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, the first thing for me is just the high interest in this election. I mean, it looks like we could wind up with record-setting midterm turnout. I talked to Michael McDonald who's a turnout expert at the University of Florida, and he said that he expects somewhere between 45 and 50 percent of eligible voters to cast a ballot.

DEMBY: Wow.

MONTANARO: That doesn't sound like a lot, but for a midterm, it will be the highest since the mid-1960s. And of course, that was another time of political, social and cultural upheaval.

DEMBY: What is the normal turnout in a presidential election?

MONTANARO: In a presidential election, you know, it's high if you get to 60 percent.

DEMBY: OK.

MONTANARO: That's about what it was in 2016. It usually drops off about 30 percent between presidential and midterms. In fact, in 2014, only 36 percent of people showed up to vote who are eligible to vote. That was the lowest in 70 years. And if you go back - 1942 - people were fighting in a war overseas.

DEMBY: Right, right.

MONTANARO: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: So midterm electorates usually look a little bit different from presidential electorates, right? They're a little older. They're a lot whiter. Is that what we expect this year?

KHALID: I mean, that has historically been the trend, right? You don't really have - what a lot of political scientists will say is it really hurts the Democratic Party, demographically, when you look at the overall electorate.

MONTANARO: You know, traditionally, Latinos and young people, 18 to 29, for example, in particular, wind up staying home in these midterms. There is some evidence to suggest that they're actually a little bit more fired up for this election. And if that's the case, if that floor comes up, that's only a good thing for the Democratic Party.

DEMBY: So you guys have been doing a lot of reporting on nonvoters. So last week, before President Obama put out an ad sort of doing his finger-wagging thing against...

MONTANARO: He's back.

DEMBY: Finger wagging at young people who aren't voting.

MONTANARO: He always did that, right?

DEMBY: He did. You're absolutely right.

MONTANARO: He was always just like...

DEMBY: Don't boo. Vote.

MONTANARO: Right.

DEMBY: So what do we know? I mean, you guys have been doing all this reporting on people who opt not vote - who choose not to vote.

KHALID: Yeah. So they tend to be younger. They tend to be people of color. They tend to be not as wealthy and as well-educated, as voters. And that kind of cuts across all races. So, you know, you can go to parts of West Virginia that are majority white, and you will find that if they are - you know, have low levels of college education and tend to be pretty poor, they will also have really low voter turnout. One of the things that we do notice that I think is interesting is that competition sometimes can motivate people to vote - just the idea that it's considered a real battleground state. New York's voter turnout is historically really low.

MONTANARO: Right.

DEMBY: Because they just assume that it's a super blue place.

KHALID: It's going to be a blue state. And you see that across the board. And for a while - you know, in fact, that's actually what I heard from some voters when I spent time in Georgia. They thought, hey, my state's always been red. I, you know - it was a young African-American man. He told me, I identify as a Democrat, and I just don't see a point because I can do my own math and figure my vote won't matter. Now, that is an uphill challenge for any Democrat who wants to compete in a place like Georgia, a place like Texas, even a place like Arizona because a lot of people there already think of their state as a predominantly red state. And you could say the same, too, for a Republican trying to compete in a Democratic state.

DEMBY: And I guess voting is, like, a kind of cultural habit though, right? I mean, you go to - people tell these stories about their parents taking them into the booth with them...

MONTANARO: Totally.

DEMBY: ...When they were kids.

KHALID: Totally.

DEMBY: And it sort of reinforces this idea that this is what you do if you did not grow up in a house like that.

MONTANARO: And I'll just say, you know, that's a big reason why, I guess, I feel so strongly about voting and about politics. My father was an immigrant, and, you know, he felt very strongly about the United States as a place that gave him an opportunity. And, you know, we talked a lot about the news and politics and voting and - because he was so proud to gain his citizenship when he did.

DEMBY: There are two races that we are sort of especially interested in in Florida and in Georgia in which the candidates - the two Democratic candidates are taking very different approaches to turning out voters and voter outreach - Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida. So can we start with Stacey Abrams in Georgia? And can we talk a little bit about that race and sort of the background of this race between her and Brian Kemp?

KHALID: Sure. I spent some time with Stacey Abrams a little while back, actually, more so in the primary season. So a little bit about Stacey Abrams. She was in the Georgia state legislature for a number of years. She was actually the minority leader there. And during that time, she kind of, you know, prided herself, I would say, on actually having a pretty good, functioning relationship with the Republican governor. So I would say, if you look at her legislative path, she was really this pragmatic person who got stuff done. But I think the caricature of her now in the election cycle is as this extreme progressive liberal.

DEMBY: Is that a caricature that she's sort of - that she's fanning? Or is that something that they...

KHALID: You know, I think it's twofold, right? I think that - you know, we can talk a little bit more about her strategy, but she really has hunkered down on building up and turning out the Democratic base, which is largely - we could talk about, you know, African-American, people of color and white liberals. But on the flip side, also, her opponent Brian Kemp, who's the current secretary of state, has no doubt, also, I think, fanned some of those preconceived ideas. The latest attack I've seen is this criticism that Stacey Abrams wants illegal immigrants to vote. You know, look; Brian Kemp is the secretary of state, so if any undocumented people in this country are voting, you can make the argument that that would actually be under Brian Kemp, the secretary of state's, watch. So it's a kind of silly argument, but that's kind of the criticism I've seen lately.

MONTANARO: You know, the thing is, I think because in the primary, Stacey Abrams made a comment where - I think a lot of people picked up on it, and they were sensitive to it in Georgia - where she essentially said, we don't need Republicans to win in this state. And you know, she has noted, look; African-Americans, especially young African-Americans in Georgia, have really changed the demographic makeup of the state. A lot of people in the South - young professional blacks have moved to Atlanta and have really changed the demographic makeup of the state. And they haven't really participated in the electoral system to the point that they could have power. You know, this is a state that went from 80 percent white or more in the 1990s to now 53-47, thereabouts, for white to non-white population. It could be a very different state if those young black voters actually showed up.

KHALID: And to that point too, I mean, she's focusing a lot on Latino and Asian-American voters as well, right? I really do think this is an interesting conversation that Democrats are having internally - of, you know, sort of who do you court? Who do you need? And in Georgia, her strategy is, like - you know, look; Georgia Democrats have tried to run this moderate path before, and they have not won. They have successively lost gubernatorial races for multiple years now in a row. And this strategy, in her mind, just didn't work, right? So what's the benefit, she sees, of really courting the middle and trying to win over these white Republican moderates? What's sort of the benefit of that? Because it has not actually led to victory in the past.

DEMBY: So if we go next door to Florida, the dynamics there are a lot different, right? Gillum is running a different kind of campaign. Is that because he has to, just because the demographics of Florida are so different and because it's a purpler (ph) place than Georgia? Or - what do you think it's about?

MONTANARO: Well, you would think that the place that's slightly more red would have the kind of approach that Gillum is taking. But I think it's just because of the kind of guy he is - one, the kind of story that he believes and where his - what his narrative is. Even though Andrew Gillum in Florida is somebody who is obviously African-American - he's a progressive - Bernie Sanders came in and endorsed him - he doesn't speak in that kind of way. He is a very kind of aspirational tone, very Obama-like in a lot of ways. You know, he doesn't talk badly of Republicans. He tries to talk about how we all have shared values. He really harps on his up-from-the-bootstraps story and how anybody can make it in America. There's probably no starker choice in this country right now than this Florida governor's race. I mean, you have a guy in Andrew Gillum, endorsed by Bernie Sanders, and somebody like Ron DeSantis, a congressman who put out television ads showing himself to be the Trumpiest of Trumpiest candidates.

DEMBY: So if we go back to 2012 - right? - Obama wins re-election. He trounces Mitt Romney pretty handily. There's this postmortem, right? The Republicans put out this sort of postmortem.

MONTANARO: Oh, yeah. That.

DEMBY: This is what we need to get - to reach out to people of color - right? - to voters of color who might be sympathetic to some of our ideas. And there was a lot of sort of, like, handwringing...

KHALID: Soul-searching.

DEMBY: ...And soul-searching around how the Republican Party could avoid sort of just becoming an all-white party. And at the time, there was a sense that maybe the existence of the party might be at stake if they could not do that, right? So six years later, obviously, that postmortem is, like, ripped up, torn to shreds. No one is looking at that playbook. Do we have any sense about the way Republican lawmakers, in the House or in the Senate, are thinking about sort of the path they're on right now, which is sort of doubling down on this, you know, ethno-nationalism, I guess?

KHALID: Yeah. I mean, look; I think that's a really good question. You can talk about long-term strategy that Republicans want, but at the same time, they were able to get through a flurry of judges, under Donald Trump, and two Supreme Court justices. So these are fights that, I would say, are just not as important right now to a number of Republicans because they control the Senate, the House and the presidency. And so they've been able to get through tax reform...

MONTANARO: And rollback a lot of regulations.

KHALID: And that's the Republican agenda that they had wanted. That's part of the platform that they've wanted. So what's the impetus for reaching out and diversifying and getting a more diverse electorate?

MONTANARO: Because when you look at the white vote, yes, it's on decline and over a long period decline. But 74 percent of whites made up the population - made up the electorate in 2016, according to the Pew corrections of the exit polls. So if three-quarters of the country is still white, you can squeeze out a few more elections. Now, what does that mean long term? What does that mean by 2040? Now, that's a different question.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: That was NPR's Asma Khalid and Domenico Montanaro. Thank y'all so much for being with us today.

KHALID: You're welcome.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. It was a pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: After the break, historian Carol Anderson makes the case in her new book, "One Person, No Vote," that voter suppression is back, and that's very dangerous for our democracy.

DEMBY: Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Gene.

MERAJI: Shereen.

DEMBY: CODE SWITCH. So we invited Carol Anderson back to the podcast. Y'all may remember her. She wrote "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth Of Our Racial Divide." She's a historian and a professor of African-American studies at Emory University in Atlanta. And Carol has a new book out.

MERAJI: Welcome back, professor Anderson.

CAROL ANDERSON: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

MERAJI: This is quite a title - "One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy."

ANDERSON: It is the essence of what I saw happening with voter suppression - that we have a mantra in America that it's one person, one vote - I mean, that we say it. It just rolls off the tongue. But what is happening is that we have systematically undermined that doctrine and diluted the power of some people's votes to the point where democracy is gaining incredible illegitimacy, and it's via voter suppression.

MERAJI: And voter suppression has deep, gnarly, old roots in this country. Professor Anderson starts her book in the past in the Magnolia State - Mississippi. The Confederates lost the war and in 1870, the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote. Now, Democrats ran the South back then. It was basically a one-party system. And let's just say, the Southern states were not happy about this new amendment to the Constitution.

ANDERSON: Yeah, so so the Southern Democrats were just incredibly powerful. One of the key measures was what's called the Mississippi Plan of 1890. And with that plan, what Mississippi legislators had to figure out was how do we get around that doggone 15th Amendment that says that the right to vote shall not be abridged on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude? And how do we get around it and systematically deny black people the vote? And the Mississippi Plan was the answer.

MERAJI: Anderson writes that the Mississippi Plan used things African-Americans had no control over against them, things like poverty and illiteracy - results of slavery and massive inequality.

ANDERSON: Literacy - in terms of being able to read large sections of the Constitution and interpret it to the likings of the registrar. Poverty - by having to pay a poll tax. Along with Election Day terrorism - let's be clear, that was also out there - where black folks who tried to register to vote, who tried to vote, could easily be killed, and nothing would be done about it.

MERAJI: And it wasn't just Mississippi that made voting difficult and dangerous. It was basically the entire South. But if you were white, and you weren't so good at interpreting the Constitution or you were poor - not to worry. You were given an out a few years later with something called the grandfather clause.

ANDERSON: And it said that if your grandfather could vote before 1867, you too could vote. But who couldn't vote before then?

MERAJI: Black people. In 1867, the radical Republicans pushed through the 1867 Reconstruction Act. The final phase of that act granted black men the right to vote. So only white men had the right to vote before 1867. And to make things even easier for white people to hoard the power of the vote in most of the South, Anderson says they were the only ones allowed to vote in the primary.

ANDERSON: Now, black folks could vote if they wanted to in the general election, but they couldn't vote in the primary. Because it's a one-party system, whoever won that primary was going to be the one who was going to win the general election. So that primary was key. So making the white primary whites-only really, again, significantly disfranchised African-Americans.

MERAJI: How did black voting look after having all of these deterrents put upon it?

ANDERSON: Oh, my gosh. It plummeted. Only 3 percent of African-American adults were registered to vote in the South by 1940 - 3 percent.

MERAJI: And a majority of African-Americans lived in the South. Congress did pass legislation to try and deal with black voter disenfranchisement - the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

ANDERSON: Except it required litigation. So you had to sue an official for violating your right to vote. There was a trial. There was a verdict. There was an appeal. And years would go by.

MERAJI: The legal process took forever. And in the Civil Rights Act, the onus was on you to prove that your right to vote was violated.

ANDERSON: By the time we got to 1960, three counties in Alabama had a total of five African-Americans registered to vote although they had nearly 16,000 age-eligible African-Americans in the population.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYNDON B. JOHNSON: It is wrong - deadly wrong - to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

MERAJI: And we know something big happened in 1965. Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law. Did that fix things?

ANDERSON: That was a massive game changer. It flipped the way that the U.S. did business on its head.

MERAJI: Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act made states and certain counties with a history of discrimination get the OK from the DOJ or a federal court before they could change their voting laws. These were those states that used poll taxes, literacy tests and had fewer than 50 percent of voting-age-eligible adults registered to vote. They're often referred to as preclearance states.

ANDERSON: Mississippi, prior to the Voting Rights Act, had fewer than 10 percent of African-Americans registered to vote. So we're in the single digits in terms of black voter registration in Mississippi. By the time we get to, like, 1967 or '68, black voter registration is almost at 60 percent. And you have your first elected black official in Mississippi by 1967, which was the first one since Reconstruction. The Voting Rights Act was a game changer.

MERAJI: Now, let's fast forward 33 years to the 2000 election.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: George Bush, governor of Texas, will become the 43rd president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Florida's Supreme Court has sided with the Gore campaign, ruling that recounts underway in three Florida counties must be included in the...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Found that the more democratic and black the population, the higher the rate of invalidated ballots. In other...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Mr. Vice President, there are gross violations of the Voting Rights Act from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: The general...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: And I object. And it is not signed by a senator.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to reverse a Florida Supreme Court ruling that had...

GEORGE W. BUSH: I am honored and I'm - I guess I'd better go write an inaugural speech.

(LAUGHTER)

MERAJI: Bush v. Gore, Florida, hanging chads - all kinds of drama and chaos.

ANDERSON: I believe the scholarly term is hot mess (laughter). This was bad in Florida.

MERAJI: If you're old enough to remember it, that's an election you'll never forget. But professor Anderson says something else was going down that year in the Show-Me State, something you probably don't remember.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ANDERSON: There was another hot mess happening in St. Louis, Mo. And the St. Louis Board of Election had purged nearly 50,000 voters from the rolls shortly before the election and didn't tell folks that they had been purged off of the voter rolls. People go to vote, and their names are nowhere on the rolls, and the poll workers don't have any documentation that these folks are who they say they are, that they were on the rolls before. There's nothing there that they were given. So they're trying to call down to the Board of Elections. And the lines are jammed. And this is a Tuesday, a work day. And people are jammed into the Board of Elections. By 7 o'clock, the polls are getting ready to close and this stuff still hasn't been figured out. And so the Democrats sued to keep the polls open an additional three hours until 10 o'clock to give the people who had been illegally purged a chance to get it all fixed up so that they could go and vote. Well, the Republicans were like, oh, uh-uh and immediately got another court to come in behind that judgment and shut the polls down by 7:45. And what the Republicans argued, particularly U.S. Senator Kit Bond - Christopher Kit Bond - was that keeping the polls open an additional three hours was an attempt by folks in St. Louis to steal this election. This was a case of massive, rampant voter fraud.

MERAJI: Voter fraud.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Who's to say we don't have voter fraud if nobody's really looked into it?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Cannot have people that are not eligible to vote casting votes in our election.

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Leaders of this new effort say they want to make sure that elections are free from fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: I think nothing could disenfranchise an eligible voter more than finding out that ineligible voters are voting.

MERAJI: Professor Carol Anderson makes the case in her book, "One Person, No Vote," that this is when the threat of voter fraud starts gaining serious traction, thanks in part to former Republican Senator Kit Bond from Missouri.

ANDERSON: He took that language of voter fraud into Congress where Congress was beginning to craft the Help America Vote Act, which was to deal with that incredible debacle down in Florida. So the Help America Vote Act deals with having machines that, ooh, I don't know, can actually count votes, a commission, a place where people can go whose rights have been violated so that they can lodge a complaint. And so the Help America Vote Act was dealing with that kind of reality. He added the lie of voter fraud into federal law and said the way that we can deal with voter fraud is by requiring IDs.

MERAJI: Republicans say even a small amount of voter fraud can sway elections, like double voting, casting a ballot in more than one place. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has a database of over 1,100 cases of proven voter fraud - 1,100 in 18 years. But a majority of those cases are not the kind of double voting fraud voter ID laws are supposed to prevent. In 2014, The Washington Post did its own analysis and found only 31 credible cases of that type of voter impersonation - 31 cases over a 14-year period where more than a billion votes were cast. Studies do show that voter ID laws disproportionately affect black and Latino voters. Texas, Mississippi and Alabama all moved ahead with strict voter ID laws just 24 hours after a Supreme Court decision cleared the way for them to do so. The case known as Shelby v. Holder neutered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act where certain states - preclearance states - had to get the all-clear from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

ANDERSON: Alabama was a preclearance state and had actually written its voter ID law in 2011 before the Voting Rights Act was gutted. That law passed, but Alabama didn't implement it because it knew that there was no way that it could get through a Department of Justice preclearance review. But after the Shelby County v. Holder decision, Alabama implemented this law. Public housing ID was not included on the list of acceptable government-issued photo ID. Alabama is a poor state. It ranks somewhere between 48th and 45th in the nation in terms of poverty. It has a sizable impoverished population and - that lives in public housing, 71 percent of whom are African-American.

MERAJI: You basically make the case in your book that it's a modern-day poll tax.

ANDERSON: It really is. I mean, so in Alabama, Alabama then shut down the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Black Belt counties, making the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles 50 miles away. But if you don't drive - because you don't have a driver's license - and there isn't public transportation, then how are you supposed to go 50 miles away - so that's a 100-mile round trip - to get an ID? You've got to pay for it somehow, pay for the trip itself and then pay for the ID. That's a poll tax.

MERAJI: A few years ago, Alabama reversed some of those DMV closures after a federal investigation found they disproportionately affected black residents. Today, 34 states have some type of voter ID requirement. Professor Anderson says it's not just voter ID laws suppressing the black and Latino vote, though. Poll closures do, too. Polling stations close and people might have to travel longer distances to vote.

ANDERSON: So between 2013 and 2016 - three years - 868 polling stations had been closed in those preclearance states.

MERAJI: And along with poll closures, professor Anderson says we should also pay attention to voter roll purges. That's when registered voters get kicked off the rolls. NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found, in a report published earlier this year, that in those preclearance states that are no longer protected by the Voting Rights Act, voter purges have spiked. Now, all states are tasked with keeping their voter registration rolls accurate. This is an argument Republicans make often. They're just enforcing the law to keep elections fair. The National Voter Registration Act requires voter roll maintenance - getting dead people off the list, folks who've moved out of state, that kind of thing. And the act allows states to maintain rolls the way they see fit as long as they're not discriminating. In some states, though, you can also get kicked off if you haven't voted in a couple years and you've failed to confirm your voter registration. It's been referred to as use it or lose it.

ANDERSON: You don't go to church every Sunday, doesn't mean you lose your right to religion.

MERAJI: Regardless, the Supreme Court upheld this kind of voter roll maintenance in a decision just this year. And last year, Georgia passed a voter maintenance law that requires an exact match between your voter registration form and other government documents - exact match - no hyphens out of place, no maiden names, no old addresses - none of that. Before these upcoming midterms, over 50,000 voter registrations are on hold in Georgia because of that, and Georgia is a former Voting Rights Act preclearance state. Seventy percent of those voter registrations on hold belong to African-Americans. And the person responsible for the purges? Georgia's secretary of state, Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor. Kemp asserts that he has every right to do this, and he says, in Georgia, quote, "it's never been easier to register to vote." Kemp's being sued by civil rights groups for disenfranchising black voters, and professor Anderson says this is just one example of history repeating itself.

ANDERSON: You see the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU taking these states to court over and over and over. It has hurled us back to the 1957 Civil Rights Act where we had litigation that would drag on for years, and the courts would say, oh, my gosh, yes, this is absolutely wrong. But you know what? We've got an election coming, so it would - it's too late. It's too close to the election to actually change this discriminatory thing that you have going on here.

MERAJI: Exactly what kind of impact voter ID laws, poll closures and voter roll purges are having on voter turnout is really hard to figure out. One study has shown that in the short term, these laws are firing up Democrats to organize, get people registered, get them IDs and get them to the polls. Professor Anderson gives an example in "One Person, No Vote" of volunteers and nonprofits stepping in to help get voters organized in the Doug Jones-Roy Moore special election in Alabama.

ANDERSON: Civil society did that work and registered thousands of people. Civil society did the work of dealing with the poll closures. And so they set up what was almost like the Montgomery bus boycott private car system back in the mid-1950s, where cars were put into a pool, and then they were dispatched out back and forth to bring voters to and from the polls.

MERAJI: Anderson says the voter turnout rate for African-Americans in that special election in Alabama was higher than the overall rate by 5 percent.

ANDERSON: We're back to the 1957 Civil Rights Act in so many horrible ways. But what we see is the resilience and the resolve to vote for democracy, to fight for democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Carol Anderson's a professor of African-American studies at Emory University. Her new book is "One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy."

DEMBY: All right, y'all. That's our show. Please follow us on Twitter. We're @NPRCodeSwitch. We want to hear from you. You can email us at codeswitch@npr.org. You can always send us your burning questions about race in America with the subject line Ask CODE SWITCH.

MERAJI: Sign up for our newsletter at npr.org/newsletter/codeswitch, and subscribe to the podcast on NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was produced by Kumari Devarajan and me and Sami Yenigun. It was edited by Leah Donnella and Sami Yenigun.

DEMBY: Shout out to the rest of the CODE SWITCH fam - Karen Grigsby Bates, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Walter Ray Watson, Adrian Florido, Kat Chow, Mayowa Aina and Steve Drummond. Our intern is Andrea Henderson. I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

MERAJI: Peace.

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