Sanjana Ravulapalli, Contributing Writer
Lindsey West, Contributing Writer
VCU has chosen “One Person, No Vote,” a book that analyzes the voter suppression against African Americans, for next year’s Common Book. Students will read the book in their focused inquiry classes.
After the 2016 election, author Carol Anderson said she noticed many were under the impression that African Americans didn’t go out and vote, or that the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton didn’t reach out enough. But Anderson says the 2013 Supreme Court decision to repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which barred mainly Southern states from changing voter laws without federal approval, affected voter turnout.
“That’s what drove me to write this book,” Anderson said in an interview. “What happens to American elections? What happens to American democracy? When the protections of the Voting Rights Act are no longer operable, it’s not pretty.”
The Common Book program, which involves students, faculty and staff in the book’s selection process, aims to raise awareness about social issues among students, allowing readers to formulate their own educated opinions on prevalent topics. This year, the 2020 presidential election inspired the selection process.
Focused inquiry professor and director of the Common Book program Felecia Williams said because the Common Book reaches a large population, it can promote students’ involvement and awareness in society.
“Because the Common Book is a university-wide initiative, we try to have many people as part of the decision-making process as possible to make sure that the book resonates with all facets of the campus community,” Williams said.
Williams said that although voter suppression is decreasing, but “any vote suppressed is one too many and would be an injustice in any election.”
She said the book was meant to educate students on voter disenfranchisement, and to encourage them to “exercise that power.”
Freshman Carley Harrison is a member of the student selection committee that helps decide next year’s book. The psychology major said Anderson’s book introduced her to the idea of voter suppression in the U.S.
“I was not as aware of voter suppression before I read the novel,” Harrison said. “‘One Person, No Vote’ provides an abundance of information on voter suppression and allows me to vastly increase my knowledge on the topic.”
Anderson said college students are on the voter suppression “hit list.”
“There is a narrative out there that students are too liberal, and they [conservative officials] want to get them to not vote,” Anderson said. “That’s a shame, because the students who are American citizens have the right to vote, and students also have a right to vote where you go to college.”
Registering to vote is frustrating for some students, such as sophomore English major Lina Romero, who said she was turned away once at the polls after filling out the registration form with the wrong zip code.
“It’s not difficult but it is a long process,” Romero said. “And that is what voter suppression is designed to do. It is designed to demoralize you so much that you just don’t vote.”
Anderson said she hoped that students learned to “vote like your life depends on it.”
“I hope that they understand that democracy is worth it,” Anderson said. “That they register to vote, that they engage with the issues, that they understand who the candidates are, they understand what the policies are, what the implications and ramifications of those policies are and that they go vote.”
Anderson is scheduled to give a lecture about “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy” at the Siegel Center on Oct. 21.