Rule by Violence, Rule by Law: The Evolution of Voter Suppression and Lynching in the U.S. South
35 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2016
Voter suppression, widespread and diverse, can be categorized as ad-hoc, extra-legal, often tending toward violence, or institutionalized, legal, and typically non-violent. We argue why regimes would prefer the latter, and thus that when legal approaches to voter suppression are developed they should replace violent, extra-legal approaches. We apply this idea to an important historical phenomenon: the lynching of blacks in the American South. In contrast with previous studies, we argue lynching was a political tool used to disenfranchise black citizens. We find that lynchings were more likely to take place prior to elections and in areas where the Democratic Party faced greater political threat, until Jim Crow suppression laws were in place. Once such laws were in place, the salience of political factors disappears. These results have important implications for understanding lynching and evolving forms of black voter suppression in the South, and contemporary voter suppression in America and elsewhere.
Keywords: Lynching, Violence, Elections, Race and Ethnic Politics, American Political Development
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