Are Our Elections Honest?

February 10, 1894


The Planet poses questions regarding the fairness of elections in the Richmond area.


The Richmond, Va., Daily Times, a liberal Democratic journal has been faithfully endeavoring to lead the party with which it is identified back to the true principles of Democracy.
It attacked that cancerous growth-dishonest elections and no surgeon has ever essayed to locate and advise as to the removal of the same with more precision and fidelity than has this champion of truth and justice.
When the allegations was made that political rings controlled the state and that whereas when the Republican party was active Negroes were cheated, but since its retirement from the field outspoken and independent white men were cheated as well, the Chairman of the State Democratic Committee professed ignorance and the Richmond, Va., Dispatch was stone-blind.
It was openly stated that the charges must be substantiated by facts. Well in the Daily Times on the 4th inst., these facts are produced. With what success the reader may judge from the editorial utterances of this journal.
“The exposure we make this morning of what took place at Smithers’ store precinct, in Henrico county, as the election on November 7,1893, should make every citizen of Virginia pause and ask himself earnestly and seriously if he has any voice in his government at all as matters now stand. Three hundred and fifty voted were all that were cast at this precinct and yet the election officers recorded six hundred and eleven and that by the most open and barefaced methods of stuffing the ballot box. So bold had successful fraud made them that they neglected the most ordinary precautions of covering up their tracks. The copying of “blocks of five” from the registration book is perhaps the most open and barefaced fraud that was ever attempted before under similar circumstances. By this method, a precinct which had never before given more than one hundred and seventy seven democratic votes in an honest election was made to give four hundred and ninety-eight Democratic votes. It could just as easily have been made to give one thousand if they had been needed.”
And again
“This thing could not have happened without the connivance of all the election officers at that precinct. It is, therefore, to be considered as of and belonging to our election system. A system which makes those who have exclusive control of the elections a board of partisans, all of one party, to hold their meetings in secret, keep no records and be accountable to no one, must of course work it way by degrees to elections like that held at Smith's.
The Times has uncovered what was done at this precinct by its own unaided efforts. It was of course at a great disadvantage from having to pick up its information here and there and wherever it could find an item. It had no power to compel the attendance of witnesses to give evidence. If it had this power it had not the slightest doubt that it could show that a state of affairs similar to that at Smithers exists in almost every, if not every, Negro county.”
What will the people of Virginia say to this? How do they like the situation? But the Daily Times propounds a few questions and answers them. Here they are:
“The Dispatch has repeatedly taunted the Times with the question ‘Why do you not go with your allegations of fraud before the grand juries?’ We have now proved fraud. What does the Dis;atch think will b done? We can tell it. Nothing. It is very doubtful whether the grand Jury indicts any one. But if it does here will be no conviction. Men cannot be expected to be better than their laws. The Anderson-McCormick law was understood by the people to be intended to be a shelter for cheating in elections. It had demoralized a great part of the moral sense of the people and they look on at the frauds that are perpetrated in elections with a shrug of the shoulder and inward thanks that their election troubles are ended.
But are they ended? Is it any relief to escape Negro rule to fall under the absolute and autocratic rule of a ring of election thieves and ballot-box stuffers?
What is the use of any citizen voting again? His vote is not counted unless it suits the election officers to count it. What part then has the citizen in his government. None, absolutely none. He had just as well stay at home as go to the polls. The result is the same in either case.”

Ah, the white men of Virginia, in order to protect themselves against fraud and thievery must protect us.
Here is the practical demonstration of a principle which is as old as time and as unvarying as the Almighty.
May the christian people rally and the masses see that it is absolutely essential to the life of free government that honesty be again enthroned...
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Lower Left Quadrant


Contributed By

Carlos Serrano


“Are Our Elections Honest?,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed May 20, 2019,