‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’ shows the troubling history of voter suppression in the US

Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, tells her story

‘All In: The Fight for Democracy’ shows the troubling history of voter suppression in the US
"All In: The Fight for Democracy" is a new Amazon Studios film about voter suppression in the U.S.

All eyes were on Georgia during the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. During the contentious battle between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, people stood in four-hour lines, voting machines had broken down and voters were randomly purged from the polls or told they had already voted. 

Abrams and others criticized Kemp for overseeing the election as Georgia's secretary of state during his bid for governor. However, Kemp won the election, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found no evidence that wrongdoing necessitated a runoff election between the two candidates. 

“All In: The Fight For Democracy,” directed by Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, delves into the story of Abrams’ downfall in the 2018 election and shows viewers the long history of voter suppression in America. By weaving a history of voter suppression with Abrams’ story, the directors create a compelling documentary that provides a baseline knowledge of voter suppression for less politically active people. However, even a long-time voter can glean new knowledge from this film.   

America’s history of voter disenfranchisement stems back to its founding. Florida’s felony disenfranchisement laws in 1868 created barriers so that felons and ex-felons could not vote. The Mississippi Plan of 1890 imposed restrictions such as poll taxes and literacy tests, which made it harder for Black people to vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, meaning that states could impose stricter voting legislation. Within hours of the ruling, states were already imposing restrictions. 

Throughout the documentary, we get a glimpse into Abrams’ upbringing. We see a clip of her speaking at the 1993 March on Washington anniversary when she is just 19 years old. We hear about her time at Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college. Abram’s parents speak about what it was like to raise her. These pieces of Abrams’ story are inspiring, but they also evoke a sadness in viewers when put in the context of the loss of such a highly qualified candidate. 

Some of the most effective moments in the film are when we see flashbacks in both Abrams’ life and in history through animations. By juxtaposing Abrams’ life with history throughout the film, viewers get to follow two riveting storylines. 

However, this documentary lacked direct interviews with people who have been supportive of stricter voter laws. It featured news clips of politicians speaking about their support of restrictive laws, but it would have been more informative to have seen longer interviews with these perspectives in the documentary.  

Nonetheless, “All In” is eye-opening and informative. It was released at a pivotal time in American history in the months leading up to the high-stakes 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden and following similar voter suppression claims in Georgia during this year’s June primary election, as reported by NBC News. The message of this documentary is clear: Every single vote matters, now more than ever. 

“All In: The Fight for Democracy” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

ltarallo@theeagleonline.com

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