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The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights ActThe Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act

Charles S. Bullock III, Ronald Keith Gaddie and Justin J. Wert

Narrated by Bill Burrows

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Oklahoma Press

On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, invalidating a key provision of voting rights law. The decision—the culmination of an eight-year battle over the power of Congress to regulate state conduct of elections—marked the closing of a chapter in American politics. That chapter had opened a century earlier in the case of Guinn v. United States, which ushered in national efforts to knock down racial barriers to the ballot. A detailed and timely history, The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act analyzes changing legislation and the future of voting rights in the United States.

In tracing the development of the Voting Rights Act from its inception, Charles S. Bullock III, Ronald Keith Gaddie, and Justin J. Wert begin by exploring the political and legal aspects of the Jim Crow electoral regime. Detailing both the subsequent struggle to enact the law and its impact, they explain why the Voting Rights Act was necessary. The authors draw on court cases and election data to bring their discussion to the present with an examination of the 2006 revision and renewal of the act, and its role in shaping the southern political environment in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, when Barack Obama was chosen. Bullock, Gaddie, and Wert go on to closely evaluate the 2013 Shelby County decision, describing how the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court created an appellate environment that made the act ripe for a challenge.

Rigorous in its scholarship and thoroughly readable, this book goes beyond history and analysis to provide compelling and much-needed insight into the ways voting rights legislation has shaped the United States. The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act illuminates the historical roots—and the human consequences—of a critical chapter in U.S. legal history.

Charles S. Bullock III is the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia.

Ronald Keith Gaddie is President's Associates Presidential Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, and Senior Fellow of Headington College at the University of Oklahoma. His 2009 book with Bullock, The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South, won the V. O. Key Award for the outstanding book on Southern politics.

Justin J. Wert is the Associates Second Century Presidential Professor & Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma and recipient of the 2006 American Political Science Association's Edward S. Corwin Award. He is author of Habeas Corpus in America: The Politics of Individual Rights.


“Greatly expanding our understanding of federal voting rights after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, this book addresses a hugely important area of public policy by persuasively analyzing the past achievements of federal intervention and the challenges facing advocates of new legislation.”

—Merle Black, coauthor of The Rise of Southern Republicans

“This comprehensive history of the Voting Rights Act traces the Act’s success in empowering racial minorities, the various interpretations of it by the Supreme Court, and changes to the law as Congress reauthorized it over the years. Although the full impact of the high court’s Shelby County decision remains unclear, this excellent volume provides informed speculation on what the future may hold.”

—Thomas Brunell, author of Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America

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University Press Audiobooks