Election law has certainly earned its eccentric reputation. From zombie voters to hanging chads, the strange history of modern election law has become ingrained in the public consciousness. But, as odd as the last decade has been, the previous centuries of election law have been even more bizarre. So, in this series of articles, State of Elections will take a closer look at some of the stranger moments in election law.
In the previous “bizarre history” article, we discussed the various (and often hilarious) irregularities of Siskiyou County’s school superintendent election. Today, we are going to take a more solemn look at one of the strangest and most brutal attempts to disenfranchise black voters in American history.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Camden County New Jersey was a hotbed of racial strife. The black population of the county grew dramatically, as former slaves left their plantations and moved up North. As the black population grew, so did the anger of certain elements within the white community. This tension between the whites and blacks in Camden County came to a head during the 1870 Congressional election. For many of the newly freed slaves, it would be their first time voting. In Centreville, a small town in Camden County, whites feared that this sudden influx of freed slaves would have an irrevocable impact on local politics. So, they formed a mob and marched down to the polls to stop blacks from voting, anyway they could. Continue reading