THE DEMOCRATS WERE AVID WITH RIGGING IN THE MID-1800s

June 11, 2022by Tope Fasua0
As Republican Sen. Timothy Howe of Wisconsin put it in 1875, “They could cheat Republicans in three ways: First, by receiving Democratic votes from illegal voters; second, by refusing Republican votes from legal voters; third, by allowing turbulence and tumult to deter Republicans from offering their votes. That they did cheat by each of those methods has been testified not only by scores but by thousands of voters.”
Put that way, it sounds like simple hard-nosed politics: Of course a party would want to maximize its own votes and minimize the other side’s. In practice, of course, the Democrats were running on a platform of explicit white supremacy, and the elections that got rigged were the ones in which black people were most likely to be voting.
Tactics included folding multiple ballots inside a single Democratic ballot, so that a voter could stuff the ballot box without noticing, and diluted the will of the actual black citizens trying to vote (the overwhelming majority of whom supported Republicans, since white Democrats often didn’t even want black people joining their party). And when white officials simply refused to allow black citizens to register to vote, they never even got a chance to find out which party they’d vote for anyway.
The problem with contesting elections, though, is that it was much easier for the congressional panel to know when people had been turned away from the polls, or when holes had been drilled in ballot boxes, than it was for them to know when people had simply been scared out of trying to vote at all.
Because while the current strain of “law and order” politics sees vigilante justice as a tool to protect the integrity of elections, in the 19th century, electoral violence — and even murder — was straightforwardly accepted as a way to keep black citizens from voting, and potentially tipping the election against white supremacist candidates.
America’s ugly and near-forgotten history of widespread electoral violence
During the era of the rigged election, voting was a dangerous act. It could be lethal.
This chart compiles reports of violence against black citizens (and white Republicans) filed by the South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau in the first three years of Reconstruction. But the pattern it shows — that violence intensified around elections — would be true nearly anywhere in the South, and at any time during and immediately after Reconstruction.
There are many ways to use violence to intimidate voters. There was the physical blocking of polling places by armed groups, as happened in several precincts in a contested South Carolina election in 1880. There was beating of black voters in the weeks before the election in an attempt to scare them out of trying to vote, as was ubiquitous (for example) in Louisiana. There were assassinations of local Republican politicians — black and white alike — as happened in Alabama in 1875.
Often, the violence was conducted by organized clubs like the Knights of the White Camellia — designed not to engage in wanton racial terrorism, like the Ku Klux Klan, but specifically to suppress the Republican vote. “Old men and young men, married and single, even the boys have engaged in what is called ‘the great work of redeeming the country,’” one South Carolina newspaper wrote in 1876.
screencap terrorism video
Joe Posner/Vox
Sometimes intimidation worked. When up to 200 black Louisianans were killed in the “Opelousas massacre” of September 1868 (at the end of a chain of events that started with the beating of a white teacher for registering black voters), Ulysses S. Grant’s reelection campaign pulled out of Louisiana and Georgia entirely.
Sometimes it didn’t, and the results were bloody. When black Americans mobilized to vote en masse in Eufaula, Alabama, in 1874, white terrorists shot into the unarmed crowd, killing seven people and wounding dozens.
Even winning an election didn’t guarantee safety from violence. Local elections in Louisiana in 1872 were so contested and fraud-riddled that black residents of Colfax had to station themselves outside the courthouse to protect the Republican county judge and sheriff from being forcibly unseated by their Democratic opponents. Eventually, a white insurgent group of 300 took the whole courthouse by force, and 100 black citizens were killed.
This is the core truth of Reconstruction violence: It wasn’t just against the black vote but against the state. It was a declaration that the governments in which black people voted were illegitimate — justifying them being replaced by force (as in Colfax or in the Louisiana legislature). Often, it meant that particular elected officials were targeted — state actors threatened in the service of restoring legitimate government.
The Eufaula massacre of 1874 was followed by the murder by a white mob of the son of a local judge — who was a “scalawag,” a Southerner who took part in the Reconstruction government. The judge fled the state. (The mob also burned a ballot box.) In Mississippi in that same year, white militants drove a county sheriff out of the state in advance of the election, then murdered, among others, a black state legislator.)
These acts of white violence were usually minimized at the time: death counts deflated, communities waved off as “stable” when an act of intimidation worked.
This history is important to recognize that voter fraud and electoral violence are a part of American history. And traditionally, they have usually both been on the same side: the same people intimidating nonwhite Americans out of casting a ballot were those who engaged in fraud to make sure the “right” person won.

Leave a Reply

Copyright TopeFasua.com All rights reserved | Powered by Cywiz Tech

Copyright TopeFasua.com All rights reserved | Powered by Cywiz Tech