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After losing the 2018 Georgia governor’s race by a slim margin in a questionable election (her opponent was Georgia’s chief elections officer and refused to step down during the campaign), Stacey Abrams decided to change the voting landscape in her state. She set up Fair Fight America to register voters and protect their rights at the polls. She later founded another organization called Fair Count in an effort to include under-represented communities in the 2020 census. In Our Time is Now, she details the many insidious ways that governments suppress voters, the importance of the census in securing needed infrastructure and representation in communities, and ways to address all these issues.
Five stars for content and three stars for editing means four stars overall. The book could have done with another round of editing for clarity and to eliminate some repetitiveness. Otherwise…
Reading Our Time is Now in the wake of the 2020 election felt a bit like a victory dance.
Anyone who isn’t outraged by voter suppression doesn’t have a good concept of what “government by the people” means. As a white woman, I’ve never experienced anything like what Ms. Abrams details in these pages. This review keeps turning into a book report because I want everyone to be aware of the issues that she brings to light. Just getting registered to vote in some states is almost impossible. Casting your vote when polling places change without warning and there are only a handful of aging machines to serve a large community turns into an hours-long ordeal. This makes voting impossible for those who can’t take that kind of time off of work.
She points to the overturning of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 as a turning point in voter suppression. The Act, signed into law in 1965, ensured federal oversight of voting practices in states that had a history of voter suppression. States have been free to act with impunity since then and many of them have.
After detailing many of the ways in which voter suppression occurs, Ms. Abrams addresses gerrymandering. She does point out that both parties are guilty of arranging district lines to promote their own interests. This only reinforces that things should be supervised by independent commissions who are as free as possible from outside influence.
She then outlines the purpose of the census and how it directly impacts communities. Minority communities generally have low response rates because they they tend to distrust the government. She points to education as the key to this vital process. Numbers of representatives, infrastructure spending, school locations, public transportation and more rely heavily on these numbers.
The most important section, in my opinion, detailed Ms. Abrams’s ideas for combatting all these anti-democratic practices. Voter education and outreach are the biggest components. She gives evidence from her own campaign of the large impact minority voters can have if they know their rights, fight for them, and show up at the polls rather than giving in to pressure and giving up. Once these communities elect candidates who are sympathetic to their causes, government can start setting some of these wrongs to right.
Knowing that Georgia, long considered a true red state, voted blue in 2020 shows how much difference one determined woman can make. She reached out to minority voters and made sure they knew their rights. Legal advisers were on standby throughout the election to help with suspected voter suppression. And these communities, which so many have tried to silence for so long, raised their voices and were heard. I get chill bumps just thinking about it.
I highly recommend this book for all voters. Government policies could strip any of us of the right to vote. Those of us who are less likely to experience voter suppression (generally white voters) can learn the obstacles that others face and how to be advocates for change. The book didn’t shy away from tough issues but it did leave me with hope that, working together, we can continue to steer our country toward the ideal we know it can be.
If you liked Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, you might also like my reviews of
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen
- True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis
Buy Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.