In the context of the media, it doesn’t help that many Republicans have been blunt about the underlying reasoning for such policies. The Pennsylvania Republican state house majority leader stated that “the passage of the state’s 2012 voter identification law would ‘allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,’” sparking controversy amongst both Republicans and Democrats. This is strictly in pattern with the original Jim Crow laws, which stated that the restrictions were only meant to ensure fair elections. Regardless, “many Republican politicians and their allies assert that restrictive voter access legislation is intended to prevent or curtail rampant electoral fraud so as to preserve the legitimacy and integrity of the electoral process,” creating a divide between those prioritizing voter inclusion and those pushing for voter legitimacy. As the article states, “Democrats who oppose voter access regulations are working to continue their unfair and fraudulent advantages at the ballot box at the expense of democratic legitimacy.” Democrats strongly disagree with such motives but with election security at question, their hands seem to be heavily tied.
In “Jim Crow 2.0?: Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies,” Keith Gunnar Bentele and Erin E. O’Brien (University of Massachusetts Boston) research into the current standing of these Jim Crow laws from the past. Moving away from the traditional Jim Crow laws, the modern age has introduced new methods for “voter suppression”: identification.
There has also been a continuation of old Jim Crow policies by the Republican Party as they have “engaged in strategic demobilization efforts in response to changing demographics, shifting electoral fortunes, and an internal rightward ideological drift among the party faithful.” Again, “the most recent round of electoral reforms among other measures trumpeted as protecting electoral legitimacy while intended to exclude the marginalized for a particular political party’s advantage.” The pattern is clear: in working to promote voter integrity, specific groups get marginalized from voting due to the additional steps involved in voting.
With Republicans (the same party that worked to provide emancipation) arguing that there must be systems in place to prevent voting fraud, Congress has seen many bills to add more steps to voting. “Required photo identification or proof of citizenship to vote, more stringently regulation of groups or individuals who aim to register new voters, shortened early voting periods, repeal of same-day voter registration, and increased restrictions on voting by felons exemplify the different types of policies that have been proposed and adopted in various states since the mid-2000s.” The debate over whether these policies are in line with “voter suppression” is debated by the two political parties but it is evident that such efforts have increasingly been cloned in numerous states. “While more restrictions were proposed in the South due to a couple of particularly active states, Southern states vary significantly in their rates of proposal.” The irony of the situation is that the states that originally led in voting suppression aren’t necessarily leading in such efforts and the political party standings on the issue have flipped since the original introduction of the Jim Crow laws.
However, the Republican ideology on having identification to vote has plausibility. After all, those with the right to vote should be able to provide such identification. Why would Democrats disagree with such a stance? Well, it’s mainly stemmed from sentiments against voter exclusion. Leftists claim that these policies are “thinly veiled attempts by Republicans to depress turnout among constituencies deemed favorable to the Democratic Party: minorities, new immigrants, the elderly, disabled, and young.” With additional steps in place to vote, many people in these groups may find it difficult to complete the procedures and choose to not vote at all, favoring the Republican party greatly.
Following the end of the Civil War in the 1860s, former Confederate states saw an era of military rule from the North. However, reconstruction efforts by the Republican Party-controlled federal government ultimately failed to ease tensions in the po in the South; in fact, just 8 months following the ending date of the Civil War (April 9th 1865), the Ku Klux Klan was founded (December 24th, 1865) and would ravage America with anti-abolishment acts of violence. Regardless, efforts to rebuild and reform the South persisted on with scalawags (Southerners in support of federal reconstruction policies) and carpetbaggers (Northerners who relocated to the South to reinforce abolishment ideologies) in the front lines. These efforts, while slow, had the ability to create long-term change - unfortunately, these efforts would be cut off less than a score later.
In the realm of politics, the post-Civil War time period saw a golden era of Republican dominance in federal politics. Even with the exception of Andrew Johnson (promoted following the line of succession after Lincoln’s assassination), Grover Cleveland (a conservative-leaning Democrat), and Woodrow Wilson (elected following the iconic party-split by Theodore Roosevelt in the election of 1912), the Republican Party held on tightly to power. However, this was challenged for the first time in 1876. The Presidential Election of 1876 saw a close race between Republican Hayes and Democrat Tilden with Hayes barely winning the election by one electoral vote (185 v. 184). To compensate for the close tie and the prevention of post-election tensions from the Democratic Party, high-ranking officials from both parties made the Compromise of 1877.
While the Compromise of 1877 was successful in fending off a divide in North-South relations, it would cancel out years of work by reconstructionists. Union armies had slowly been leaving the Southern districts and the compromise brought a complete end to all military presence in the region, setting the stage for anti-abolitionists to return.
Immediately, Southern Democratic Party politicians would begin a long series of anti-voting policies to restrict the newly emancipated African-Americans from receiving their due rights. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution (1869) had granted all citizens, regardless of color the right to vote; Section 1 of the amendment also added on that “the right of citizens of the United States shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The intention of the amendment was clear: grant African-Americans the right to vote.
Previously, Southerners restricted them from voting on account of race, color, and condition of servitude. In response to the amendment and the Union Army’s withdrawal, many began enforcing Jim Crow laws. Instead of preventing voting procedures on account of previous methods, they began setting prerequisites on voting such as literacy tests, purposely choosing voting centers to be in areas away from Black-concentrated areas, and utilizing Grandfather tests to ease voting procedures to those who had no recent family history of servitude (mostly whites). These policies would not stop even with the passage of time and with no entity to prevent politicians from allowing and enforcing these policies, Jim Crow laws would live on into the modern era.