Since their historic victories in the 2010 midterm elections,Republicans across the country have passed an array of voting laws — to require photo identification, to make it more difficult to register, to reduce periods of early voting or to purge voter rolls — and they are considering others. The Justice Department, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, theAmerican Civil Liberties Union and other groups have challenged many of these laws in court. A federal court recently rejected Texas’ voter ID law, and similar cases from Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin await final judicial action. Sound-bite analogies between these new laws and the fully mature Jim Crow system have been properly condemned as simplistic and misleading. But more careful study of the experience of a century ago may offer a cautionary lesson about today’s changes in election laws. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Southern Democrats used statutory and state constitutional restrictions — as well as violence, intimidation and ballot-box stuffing — to discourage and, ultimately, to disfranchise many poor whites and the vast majority of African Americans. Several popular misunderstandings about that “first disfranchisement” cloud the public’s view of recent legislation.
One is that many people believe it was violence, not laws, that disfranchised African Americans, and that few Southern blacks continued to vote after the Compromise of 1877, which resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the collapse of the last Reconstruction Republican state governments. But, in fact, large proportions of African Americans somehow managed to vote in the next election in two-thirds of the counties where the most horrific Reconstruction violence took place. Black turnout in the South in the 1880s was actually higher than it often is today, and many African Americans continued to win elections for local and state offices and Congress through the 1890s.
Full Article: Protecting the right to vote – latimes.com.