The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
Rights + Justice

There’s a Term for Trump’s Strategy of Discrediting the Vote

And it has a long history in the United States.

Rachel Hope Cleves 6 Nov 2020 |

Rachel Hope Cleves is a professor of history at the University of Victoria.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win.” These were the words of President Donald Trump from the White House briefing room last night, two days after the U.S. election. His message followed the news that his opponent, former vice-president Joseph Biden, was taking the lead in the vote count in the states of Pennsylvania and Georgia, two battlegrounds that will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

As an American historian and citizen watching the election from British Columbia, nothing has caused me more distress this election cycle than Trump’s repeated attacks on democracy itself, and his party’s willingness to go along with his attacks. When the Democratic primary wound to a close this spring, and it became clear that Biden would win the nomination, pitting Trump against the candidate he most feared because polling suggested he would lose the match-up, Trump turned to attacking the democratic process as his primary strategy for victory.

But as an American historian, I shouldn’t have been surprised. We have a term for this strategy. It’s called Jim Crow.

The COVID-19 pandemic had prompted states to expand mail-in voting, to protect vulnerable citizens from the risk of infection at the polls, and to guarantee that every qualified voter could exercise the franchise. Trump reacted by attacking mail-in voting as fraudulent. As he and the Republican party were well aware, making voting more accessible was likely to lead to increased voting by Democrats. Although study after study has shown that there is almost no voter fraud in the U.S., Republicans have long used the straw man of voter fraud to impose voting restrictions that have a disproportionate impact on poor voters and people of colour, populations that disproportionately vote Democratic.

Since the nation’s founding, white supremacists have been attacking the democratic process by making the votes of people of colour “illegal.” When the U.S. was first established, voting was restricted in most states by gender and property: people could vote if they were male and if they possessed a certain amount of wealth. (In New Jersey, whether by design or exception, voting wasn’t restricted by gender and some wealthy widows initially had the right to vote.)

In the early 19th century, new states entering the union permitted voting without property restrictions, and older states began eliminating their property restrictions. This created a challenge for white supremacists. Property restrictions had been successful at preventing Black men from voting since most were too poor to qualify. Some free Black men in the North could vote, but they were relatively few in number. The elimination of property restrictions prompted white supremacists to write new laws making it illegal for Black men to vote. This happened in Pennsylvania in 1838, when a new state constitution restricted the franchise to “white freemen” only.

The struggle to make Black votes “illegal” intensified after the Civil War emancipated four million African Americans, whose status as chattel meant they had no right to vote under slavery. In 1870, the U.S. ratified the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing African American men the right to vote throughout the country. Briefly, during the period known as Reconstruction, African American men were elected to local, state and federal offices in the Southern states, where they lived in large numbers. Hiram Revels became the first African American senator in 1870 when he was appointed to represent Mississippi. He was followed in 1875 by Blanche Bruce, the first African American elected to the Senate.

White supremacists pushed back by building the system of legal restrictions on people of colour that is known colloquially as “Jim Crow.” Southern states made voting by Black men illegal by instituting “grandfather clauses” (you could vote if your grandfather had), poll taxes, and so-called literacy tests (these were not truly tests, but thin excuses to exclude voters). While Jim Crow is typically associated with African Americans, systems of segregation and restrictions on the franchise extended to Native Americans and Asian Americans as well, whose voting rights were not secured until the 1940s and 1950s respectively.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended Jim Crow measures that made it illegal for people of colour to vote and put into place federal oversight of voting in states that had historically disenfranchised Black voters. This federal oversight remained in effect until it was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Which brings us to today.

When Trump supporters crowd outside the offices where votes are being counted in Detroit and in Philadelphia, two cities with large Black populations, shouting “stop the illegal vote,” their attacks on the democratic process should not come as a surprise. Efforts to define the votes of people of colour as “illegal” have been taking place in the country since its founding. Democracy has never been whole-heartedly embraced by the white majority in U.S. history.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll