The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 145
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Perman is masterful at explaining the events that led to the establishment of
state laws and state constitutional changes that effectively removed black voters
from the rolls. Three stages of electoral history unfold from Reconstruction
between 1867 and 1877, when blacks voted and held office in southern states,
to Redemption, when white Democrats controlled state offices and manipulat-
ed voting procedures through bribery, ballot stuffing, counting fraud, and
intimidation. Blacks still voted in the Redemption years between 1877 until
the mid-188os, but the machinery to control their votes was difficult to main-
tain and risky in light of federal scrutiny. Increasingly, electoral fraud was
destroying Republican vitality and depriving black citizens of their rights. In
1888, with the election of Benjamin Harrison, the time was ripe to re-examine
electoral fraud in the South. Henry Cabot Lodge launched a bill that would
strengthen election oversight and give federal courts the power to adjudicate
in cases of voter fraud. This bill went down in defeat, squandered by
Republicans who gave priority to the McKinley tariff. Perman sees the defeat
of the Lodge bill as the end of an era of Republican concern with protection
of equal rights for all U.S. citizens.
By the next presidential election, 1892, the Democrats were back in the feder-
al saddle, and they proceeded to repeal all the election laws that had been on
the books since Reconstruction. This constituted the third stage of electoral his-
tory from 1890o to 1908, which Perman calls Restoration. No longer content to
use manipulation at the polls, whites determined to disfranchise blacks altogeth-
er by making registration and voting as difficult as possible. This required a shift
from the polling place to the statehouse and ultimately to state constitutional
"reform." Disfranchisement came with the introduction of the secret ballot, the
white primary, the "understanding clause," property qualifications, poll taxes,
and the white primary.
Texas was among the last of the southern states to adopt disfranchisement
measures. Cast as a reform to clean up the electorate, party reformers such as
James S. Hogg, Pat M. Neff, and Thomas M. Campbell would gain the upper
hand in the internecine struggles between reformers and conservatives. The
Alexander W. Terrell electoral reforms in 1902, 1903, and 1905 included the
secret ballot, poll tax, and white primary, which served to reduce the electorate
to 46 percent of white men voting and 15 percent of black men voting in 1904.
A byproduct of the electoral reforms was the disfranchisement of whites who
could not pay the poll tax.
Perman's study concludes that disfranchisement in every case eliminated not
only black and some white votes but also opposition party politics in the South.
That these reforms were perpetrated by party regulars rather than by rank-and-file
voters reinforces the notion that this was a true subversion of democracy allowed by
a nation that valued white supremacy over equal citizenship. This shameful legacy
should provide a lesson to all readers that without vigilance, democratic institutions
can be subverted and undermined by the will of a determined minority.
Unverszty of North Texas
ELIZABETH HAYES TURNER
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/163/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.