Making Cheating Easier

March 10, 1894


A new law threatens to prevent illiterate voters from accurately voting by themselves, having their ballots manipulated.


That thousands of bourbon Democrats have never accepted the amendments to the Constitution of the United States in good faith is plainly apparent in every act of theirs, but never more so than is evidenced in the editorial utterances of the Richmond, Va. Dispatch.
In its issue of the 4th inst. It discusses the new bill before the Virginia legislature, and says:

“The Walton election bill is designed to reinforce the Anderson-McCormick law and give to the electoral boards additional power to ensure the secrecy of the ballot”

The above appears fair of its face and it supplements it by the following:

“The chief thing at which the Australian system aims is that each voter shall have the privilege of preparing his ballot unmolested and unwatched. To accomplish this purpose at each polling place there is a booth provided and into this booth voters enter one by one. As they enter an official ballot (ticket) is handed them. Then and there the voter erases from the printed ballot the names of all persons for whom he does not wish to vote.”

So far, so good, but read what follows:

“Under the Walton bill, where a voter cannot read and write, he is entitled to call into the booth the special constable, who must render him assistance by reading the ballot to him and observe secrecy as to how the voter has voted.”

The special constable is a Democrat. He can as easily instruct an illiterate voter wrong as he can instruct him right.
Where there is a large illiterate vote he virtually decided the election.
Armed whited at the polls are to be followed by the stealthy work of the Democratic special constable.
The RIchmond, VGa. Daily Times sets forth the evils of the measure. He is what it says:

“We beg to suggest, however, that the present bill would be improved, if instead of requiring the voter to scratch out all the names not vote for - which in some cases might be a great number - the voter should be permitted to put a cross mark, or, as is the case in maryland, where the pad and stamp are furnished, stamp a cross mark opposite the name voted for. This has been found to work well, and saves the time and trouble of scratching out all the other names. An official ballot, too, should be posted up outside, accessible to the bystanders, for their inspection and information. The emblem or device for designating each party, and the right to vote for all the candidates in block by putting your cross mark in a place prepared therefore - at the top - is a further labor saving method”

And again:

“The requirement that the voter shall do his own making, and that the name to be erased shall have at least three-fourths of its length marked out, is likely to take up more time than is allowed even an intelligent voter, but with the illiterate will be worse. The mark opposite the name voted for should be substituted for the proposed method.”

Of course it will and thousands will be forced to retire without having exercised the right of suffrage. By the obstructing tactics in Jackson Ward, Richmond voters, who could read and write were delayed and it took twenty minutes for them to cast their ballots. The Daily Times says:

“There should be two ballot clerks or constables - of different political parties - and as they are only allowed one dollar a day for their services, the additional expense of another clerk or constable would be more than compensated for by the additional assurance of fairness.”

The insignificance of the fee assurances the securing of the worst Democratic “scrub” in the neighborhood. It concludes:

“Unquestionably the effect of this Australian system is to discourage illiterate voters, and that has been shown by experience elsewhere.”

The Richmond, Va. Dispatch gives forth this buncombe:

“In Tidewater and Southside Virginia particularly it has required great courage on the part of a colored voter to vote a Democratic ticket. He is expected to take his ticket out of the hands of a local boss, and is so watched that to slip that ticket into his pocket and take out a Democratic ticket instead is wellnigh impossible.”

This is great reason why a colored man should want to octe the Democratic ticket when members of that Party are even engaged in efforts to disfranchise him.
The following from the Dispatch would indicate that they are demanding a measure by which they can cheat without effort:

“‘The Negro belt’ of the State of Virginia is entitled to our sympathy and help. If the people of that section [unintelligent] this bill they should have it. It is a fearful exaction upon their time and patience that they should have to rise up year after year and make a mighty effort to keep off Negro domination.”

We do not believe that any measure can be devised which will more effectively rob us than the one now on the statute books. The new law is designed to make thievery easier. We shall see what we shall see. .
About this article

Location on Page

Upper Left Quadrant


Contributed By

Carlos Serrano


“Making Cheating Easier,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed May 20, 2019,