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America's shameful history of voter suppression

Much of that dysfunction harks back to the country’s shameful racial history. To circumvent constitutional amendments passed in the wake of the civil war, southern states approved a slew of discriminatory laws and introduced literacy tests and good character tests (also adopted in parts of the north) that made it next to impossible for blacks to vote. James Vardaman, the despotic governor of Mississippi, admitted in 1890 that his state’s new constitution had “no other purpose than to eliminate the nigger from politics”.

Even after segregation and Jim Crow voting laws came to a formal end in the South, modern politicians remained susceptible to the temptations of racist dog-whistles as a way of mustering the support of white voters and justifying the restriction of minority voting rights. Many southern states, for example, have persisted with segregation-era laws banning felons and ex-felons from voting – a restriction that disenfranchised an estimated 6 million voters in 2016, a vastly disproportionate number of them black men.

The Republicans have been especially prone to such corruptions because they are now the natural ruling party in the south and they have resorted to a similar playbook to the segregation-era Democrats: stoking resentment of northern elites and harking back to the “lost cause” of the civil war. They have also become increasingly insecure about their ability to win national elections. Demographic shifts have eroded their overwhelmingly white base of support, and they have so far resisted repeated entreaties from party elders to broaden that support by moderating their policy positions.

Read entire article at The Guardian