Qualifications for Suffrage

Bear with me for a few more days.  Important elections are only a week away and I cannot help but comment on them…or on the process of conducting elections.  Plus I still have not figured out how to post to separate pages on this blog.  If any of my three or four readers cares to explain how this is

1915 American Flag.

done, please do so.  But for now…allow me to comment on Qualifications for Suffrage.

I picked up a copy of the 1915 St. Paul Dispatch and St. Paul Pioneer Press Year Book and Almanac tonight.  (Get a copy of an old year book and almanac.  Chock full of great stuff.)  I found particularly interesting a table describing the state-by-state qualifications — and restrictions — for voting back in 1915.  Oh, what an uneven path we have taken toward progress.  In some ways we as a society were much more enlightened nearly 100 years ago.  In other ways…not so much. 

Consider, for example, restrictions on voting.  Scanning the table I see that 20 of the 48 states banned “idiots” from voting and I am left wondering, where did we go wrong?  I am all for keeping idiots out of the voting booth!  In fact I would very much prefer we kept them off the ballot, too, but there is no list of qualifications for who could or could not be on a ballot.  (I presume that was a more rigorously interpreted Constitutional issue, perhaps.)  I’m not sure, however, that keeping idiots away from our elections as the rules are described in 1915 would have done much to help our country today.  Excluding exceptions like Utah, Texas, and Wyoming, most of the states prohibiting idiots from voting in 1915 still seem to be doing a better job today keeping idiots away than states that did not have that restriction in 1915.  With these few exceptions, there does seem to be a clear “red state/blue state” distinction here.  I wonder…maybe idiots can vote again in Utah, Texas, and Wyoming.  Texas for sure.

It is fun to see that some states had issues with sailors and untaxed Indians voting.  Lunatics, felons, and Chinese get a bad rap, too.  Bribers are not wanted at the polls in West Virginia back in 1915 and duelists and their abettors can stay away on election day in Michigan 95 years ago.  (No restrictions on drunks…perhaps because per capita alcohol consumption in 1913 was up to 21.09 gallons, more than double the amount just 25 years prior.  Banning drunks might have put an end to the serious business of democratic elections.)

Interestingly, while Alaska was not a state in 1915, Alaska is included in this table.  You need to be 18 (and presumably male — the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution recognizing the right of women to vote was not ratified until 1920) and a resident for one year and 30 days.  That’s it.  No restrictions.  Apparently nothing has changed there.  Clearly idiots still vote in large numbers.  Maybe even a lunatic or two.  Sailors?  Probably.  Chinamen?  Hmmm…reluctantly, I suppose, right after nontaxed Indians.

Oh!  I am just kidding!  But it is hard to imagine how some people who have in the past and currently are now on the ballot in Alaska got there AND manage to win elections.  Big families, maybe.  It is a state with a small population.  Get enough kissing cousins to the booth and you might get the deciding vote cast in your favor. 

Ok, all right…I will stop with the silly late night slap happy not-so-funny fun.  But am I all wrong?  I don’t think so, even if I am  being a bit ahistorical and flippant…maybe cynical, too…but really, we do have some idiots out there and they have the right to vote.  Which makes it all the more important that informed voters don’t stay home next Tuesday. 

Get out and vote! 

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2 Responses

  1. Is the image of the 1915 American flag in this piece public domain or is it copyrighted? If the latter, I’d like to get hold of the copyright holder and ask permission to use it. I’m doing a video and need an image of a 48-star flag.

  2. I think this picture comes from http://www.loc.gov, but there are a good selection at http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagpics.html

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