The election law of 1891 began African American disfranchisement in Arkansas. Passed with the intention of combating electoral fraud, its measures proved disastrous for black political participation. The law centralized the electoral system under the control of the white Democratic Party. A secret ballot and a standardized ballot paper essentially introduced a literacy test. At the time, over a quarter of the population in the state could not read or write, including some 93,000 whites and 116,000 blacks. In 1892, the first election governed by the new rules, voters passed a poll tax amendment. By requiring the purchase of a poll tax receipt, many poorer Arkansans, black and white, were excluded from the electoral process. The vote in the 1894 elections was a third lower than in the 1890 elections, a drop of around 65,000 people.
By John Kirk • Jan 29, 2015