African American Voting Rights Essay

In that case, two inspectors of elections in Kentucky were indicted for their refusal to receive and count any vote of a black candidate in a city election.[21] The Supreme Court dismissed the indictments on the grounds that the Enforcement Act of 1870’s provisions for punishing state election officials for depriving voting rights[22] exceeded the power of Congress to regulate elections.[23] By narrowly interpreting legislative and executive Reconstruction power, the Supreme Court decisions during this era paved the way for the federal government to withdraw from the field of substantive civil rights enforcement for nearly a century.[24] Other techniques by Southern states included literacy tests, arbitrary registration practices, and poll taxes.

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Delegate Benjamin Martin, a Democrat from Philadelphia County, spoke for the majority at the Pennsylvania convention when he said, “It is altogether futile and useless to pursue the experiment of making the African and Indian equal to the white citizen.” Perhaps thinking about the Fogg suit, Martin continued that voting rights would ill-serve blacks, because an aroused public would turn them away from the polls, thus “holding out expectations to them which could never be realized.” He warned of attracting African Americans to the state.

Look to Philadelphia, he said, where blacks congregate “from all the southern States, and have so corrupted each other, that they are now in a situation far worse than the bondage from which they have escaped.

Next, this essay will look at the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including its purpose and immediate impact.

This essay will then proceed to examine the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in impacted the electoral process.

The Fifteenth Amendment did pass in 1870, but it did not explicitly grant voting rights to minorities, it only prohibited the states from denying the right to vote based on race, color, or condition of previous servitude.

After Reconstruction, states evaded the Amendment with seemingly race-neutral laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes. Supreme Court overturned a piece of the Voting Rights Act.This shift in voting rights did not occur without challenge.In Pennsylvania, in 1835, William Fogg, an African American whom election officials had turned away from the polls, filed America’s first voting rights lawsuit. Hobbs, he charged that election officials had violated the state’s color-blind constitution—“all men are born equally free and independent”—by barring him from voting just because he looked black.In 1860, no state imposed property qualifications for voting and only a half-dozen had tax-paying requirements.As the winners in this new political order, white men shaped the nation’s laws and policies without regard to women or minorities.This omission allowed states to suppress the votes of non-whites by various means.In the antebellum period, the pattern of suppression was deregulatory and explicit, as Americans pursued the ideal of a “white man’s republic.” States expanded the franchise for white males by eliminating property and tax-paying qualifications for voting, while at the same time explicitly excluding women, Native Americans, and African Americans.In the 18th century, African Americans who met other qualifications could vote in most states of the new republic.But by the mid-19th century, those suffrage rights had been lost. After the war, African American men regained the right to vote—only to lose those rights within decades, after Reconstruction.The more that efforts to suppress voting rights in America change, the more they remain the same.From the earliest days of the republic to the present, politicians have sought to limit the ability of non-whites to vote.


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