A Historical Perspective on the Current Voting Rights Battles

From Jamelle Bouie:

For as much as Jim Crow dominates our collective memory of voting restrictions, it is the attack on suffrage in the North in [the] last decades of the 19th century that might actually be more relevant to our present situation….

A growing number of voters were foreign-born, the result of mass immigration and the rapid growth of an immigrant working class in the industrial centers of the North….

If suffrage restriction in the South was a blunt weapon meant to cleave entire communities from the body politic, then suffrage restriction in the North was a twisting maze of obstacles meant to block anyone without the means or education to overcome them.

There were opponents of this effort to shrink democracy. They lost. Voter turnout crashed in the first decades of the 20th century. Just 48.9 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 1924 presidential election, an all-time low. 

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