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The Politics of Voter SuppressionDefending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote$
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Tova Andrea Wang

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450853

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450853.001.0001

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Conditions and Consequences of the Voting Rights Act

Conditions and Consequences of the Voting Rights Act

(p.29) 3 Conditions and Consequences of the Voting Rights Act
The Politics of Voter Suppression

Tova Andrea Wang

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on the years between the 1920s and the early 1960s, a time of relative stasis in the election process. One important exception to this trend of stagnation was the removal of the poll tax in some states. This movement toward inclusion was principally motivated by an understanding on the part of white politicians that poll taxes were having a bigger effect on poor whites than blacks. But as the country entered the Depression, there were new efforts to disenfranchise paupers or people on unemployment relief, although none met with great success. During the years of World War II, another major change in the voting system was the elimination of the whites-only primary, prevalent throughout the South. In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled these primaries, exclusively adopted by the Democratic Party, unconstitutional. Because Democratic primaries had been practically a sure ticket to election throughout the South, state laws that stipulated that white citizens alone could participate in primary elections were an extremely effective measure for excluding African Americans from the decision-making process. With the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. Allwright, however, that barrier was removed. Moreover, because the political allegiance of black voters had switched to the Democratic Party during the New Deal, the legal and political changes established the conditions for a significant change in party politics and electioneering in the South.

Keywords:   voting rights, voter exclusion, disenfranchisement, poll tax, voter inclusion, election law, primary elections, Democratic Party, black voters, Smith v. Allwright

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