As we edge ever closer to the US presidential election, All In: The Fight for Democracy reminds us of the importance - no matter where we live - of our right to vote.
However, this right has not always been respected. Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés’ powerful documentary warns US citizens of an insidious issue that has long corrupted their country's democracy - voter suppression.
All In uses the story of Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, as a recent, real world example of the dangers of such illicit and undemocratic activity.
Abrams has an inspiring tale to tell and she is an inspiring figure. She was the US Democratic party's nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, becoming the country’s first African-American female major-party gubernatorial nominee. She lost (albeit narrowly) to Brian Kemp in an election blighted by accusations that Kemp engaged in voter suppression.
Her experience makes Abrams a perfect guide throughout All In. She is passionate, articulate and poised. “The fundamental power of democracy lies in our right to vote,” she explains. “If you protect that right, you create possibilities for everything else.”
However, Abrams warns that “when elected officials feel like they may not have the power anymore, they have two choices. They can either be more responsive to those they lead, or they can eliminate the people they have to answer to.”
Eric Himpton Holder Jr, the 82nd US Attorney General (2009-2015), adds that: “too many Americans take for granted the right to vote and don’t understand that unless we fight for the right to vote, unless we try to include as many people as possible, our democracy is put at risk.”
Comprehensive, engaging and accessible, Garbus and Cortés’ documentary presents a powerful case - explaining the who, how, why and what of voter suppression. All In highlights who has been denied the right to vote and how that has been achieved (via, for example, poll closures, literacy tests, voter ID laws and voter scrubbing).
The film then explains why their voices have been suppressed. Who benefits from this situation? What are they afraid of? Finally, All In examines the practical things we can all do to protect our democracy and how US citizens can prepare for the coming presidential election.
Alongside Abrams, an impressive array of journalists, politicians, experts and academics - including Frances Fox Piven, Ari Berman, Andrew Young, Eric Foner and Carol Anderson - help put the issue of voter suppression into historical context.
This journey through history is chilling. It is also incredibly inspiring to see how people have fought for their right to vote. All In features many powerful moments and, in particularly moving scenes, includes the contributions of both John Lewis and Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Exercising our right to vote (regardless of where we live in the world) is surely one of the best ways to honour the contribution of these two icons of democracy. “I believe in our democracy,” Abrams concludes. “I believe in our nation and I think our strongest patriotism is the patriotism that says that every voice matters and that every vote counts.”