12 Ways To Rig An Election

"Packing"

Packing

Concentrating like-minded voters into one district can help decrease their power in surrounding districts. “Majority-minority” districts often result from packing, to “bleach” minority voters out of voting elsewhere.

"Bleaching"

Bleaching

When non-white voters are packed into one district, the surrounding districts become “bleached.”

"Cracking"

Cracking

The opposite of “packing,” breaking up a solidly partisan district in order to spread an opposing party’s voters among multiple districts can help dilute the influence of their votes.

Majority-Minority District

Majority-Minority District

A district that is composed of a majority of racial and ethnic minorities. Usually a result of cracking and packing by the map-drawers.

Poll Tax

Poll Tax

Jim Crow era electioneers liked to keep poor minorities away from polls by requiring a payment to vote. Descendants of pre-Civil War voters were usually exempted from paying the tax, hint hint. The 24th Amendment bans the practice… in 1964.

Literacy
Laws

Literacy Laws

Another Jim Crow-era measure that lasted into the 1960s, literacy tests were a series of so-called civic questions that voters needed to answer correctly in order to cast a ballot. They were typically random, confusing, subjective, and graded by a white registrar.

Property Restrictions

Property Restrictions

The Constitution originally gave individual states the power to define who could vote, and most states gave the franchise to white property-owning men — provided they weren’t Catholics, Jews, or Quakers. (Maryland became the last state to remove religious restrictions on voting in 1828.)

Gerry-mandering

Gerrymandering

When you draw up districts to favor your party, you’re gerrymandering. First used in 1812 to describe Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry’s salamander-like district plan to pack the state Senate with his allies.

Hijacking

Hijacking

If you can, try to redraw two of your rival party’s districts into one, so their two incumbents have to duke it out in a primary. One gets eliminated, and the other is potentially more vulnerable to your candidate in a general election.

Voting on Tuesdays

Voting on Tuesdays

Congress made Tuesday election day back in 1845, when it was the only day farmers could spend away from the fields, market, or church. Today, limiting voting to Tuesdays (without a work holiday or early-voting provision) is a great way to depress election turnout.

Voter ID

Voter ID

The 21st century poll tax. Conservative-run states, looking for ways to keep poor and minority turnout low, require voters to produce forms of ID that cost money to get and are less common among targeted minority populations.

Felon Exclusion

Felon Exclusion

Three states — Florida, Virginia, and Iowa — permanently bar convicted felons from voting, even after they’ve done their time. It’s an exclusion that falls disproportionately on minorities in those states’ prison systems.

A Timeline of Disenfranchisement

1870

The first time black people are (technically) permitted to vote, after the 15th Amendment is ratified. Southern states immediately find lots of ways around the constitutional requirement, like poll taxes and literacy laws, ushering in the Jim Crow era.

1882

Congress gets busy disenfranchising controversial groups. The Edmunds Act bars polygamists from voting; the Chinese Exclusion Act relegates most Asians in America to non-citizen — and non-voting — status.

1896

Mississippi strikes on a clever new Jim Crow tactic: Banning descendants of slaves from voting. Black voters go from making up 44% of the electorate to 4%. South Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia follow suit.

1920

Women are granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment. All it took was decades of protests, demonstrations, and arrests and attacks from men.

1964

The “Mississippi Summer Project” becomes the first major program to register African Americans to vote in the heart of the Jim Crow South. Klansmen murder three organizers; 37 black churches are burned or bombed. Revulsion at racist violence helps speed passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

2013

Supreme Court narrowly rules key parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, saying: “Today the Nation is no longer divided.” Several Southern states immediately move to target minorities with strict voter ID laws and limited poll hours.

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