The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States

By Alexander Keyssar | Go to book overview

SEVEN
The Quiet Years

The Council of State Governments investigated state suffrage laws, and their results show a poor substitute for the "universal suffrage" guaranteed by the Constitution. Citizens may be disqualified from voting for more than fifty reasons, and every state except Michigan has at least one provision for disqualification. Alabama has twenty-five and South Carolina twenty-eight. On the credit side, Illinois and Pennsylvania have only one each, and Vermont two. The average is about six. Convicted felons are barred in forty states. Lesser crimes that are punished by disfranchisement range from betting on an election to wife beating. Treason, electoral bribery, bigamy, perjury, adultery, malfeasance in office, receiving stolen goods, and miscegenation are all reasons for losing the right to vote in at least one state. Five states bar Indians and Rhode Island specifically bars Narragansett Indians. Insane persons, idiots, illiterates, incompetents, soldiers, sailors, and "immoral persons" are generally disfranchised. Disqualification of paupers, the infamous poll taxes in eight states, and some amazing registration and residence requirements make the list almost complete. Add to this the terrorism which prevents Negroes and unpopular minorities from voting, and the wonder is that anyone is left to go to the polls.

-- The New Republic, 1940

-225-

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The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Part I - The Road to Partial Democracy 1
  • One - In the Beginning 3
  • Two - Democracy Ascendant 26
  • Three - Backsliding and Sideslipping 53
  • Part II - Narrowing the Portals 77
  • Four - Know-Nothings, Radicals, and Redeemers 81
  • Five - The Redemption of the North 117
  • Six - Women's Suffrage 172
  • Part III - Toward Universal Suffrage -- and Beyond 223
  • Seven - The Quiet Years 225
  • Eight - Breaking Barriers 256
  • Conclusion - The Project of Democracy 316
  • Appendix - State Suffrage Laws, 1775-1920 325
  • Appendix - Sources 391
  • Notes 403
  • Index 453
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