Non “P.C.” Rules for Voting, 1890

Another find from my pile of old books, this one a small, blue, cloth-bound book, about the size of my hand, called “Edison’s Handy Encyclopaedia of General Information and Universal Atlas,” original copyright 1890 and latest reprint in 1896.

What caught my attention was the section called “Qualifications for Voting in Each State of the Union,”  specifically, the many and often surprising things which prevented people from being allowed to vote.  The section begins:

In all of the States the right to vote at general elections is restricted to males of 21 years of age and upward.  Women are entitled to vote at school elections in several States.  They are entitled by local law to full suffrage in the Territories of Utah and Wyoming.  (See article entitled “Woman Suffrage.” 

(Note:   the capitalization and punctuation were kept he same here, and there was no end parentheses for the paragraph.)

Okay–1890–the whole women not being allowed to vote thing was expected.  I was a bit surprised that the minimum age was 21.  But where it really got interesting was the column titled “Persons Excluded from Suffrage.”

There were many and varied reasons for people to be banned from taking part in elections.  Again, some were expected, such as being convicted of a crime, with each state having their own wording and specifics.  Previously accepting bribes in exchange for votes is commonly mentioned as a disqualification.  But many of the things that would disqualify a person from voting were a surprise and some not very “P.C.”  Here is a list:

Idiots and insane (appeared as an exclusion in many state laws and usually listed together, although Missouri specified “persons in asylums at public expense” – I’m not sure if this meant that if you were in a private asylum at your family’s expense you could possibly still vote?).

United States soldiers and sailors (also very common; I’m not sure what the reason is behind this–perhaps because they usually weren’t stationed in their home state?  Or perhaps they were considered too poor to vote? [see “Paupers” below]).

Chinese (California, Oregon).

Convicted of dueling (Connecticut, South Carolina); Sending, bringing, or accepting dueling challenge (Florida); duelists and accessories (Michigan); duelists and abettors (Virginia).

Paupers (Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia); paupers except honorably discharged U.S. soldiers and sailors (Massachusetts, New Hampshire).

Rebels (Kansas); Unamnestied Confederates who bore arms against the U.S. (Nevada).

Indians not taxed (Maine, Mississippi).

Indians (Michigan).

Persons excused from paying taxes at their own request (New Hampshire).

I like that last rule; I think I would have moved to New Hampshire.

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