Sunday, August 23, 2009

Low voter turnout, election fraud, led to Great Divorce?

Sunday's Post ran a fascinating article by Tim O'Neill about the history surrounding the election and subsequent lawsuit leading up to the "Great Divorce", where the city of St. Louis separated itself from St. Louis County. At the time, voters in the city wanted out of St. Louis County, and voters in St. Louis County wanted to stay united with the City. But if the issue was of signficant interest, you sure couldn't tell by the vote count.

According to the Post article, in 1870, St. Louis city had a population of 310,864 persons and St. Louis county had 31,000. The vote was nearly split in St. Louis city, 11,878 for the divorce and 11,525 against. In St. Louis County, the vote was 848 for the split, 2,617 against. Overall, the measure lost by a 12,726 for and 14,142 against count.

However, pro-separation forces filed a lawsuit, and a pro-city judge, Thomas Gantt, tossed 5,069 ballots, mostly no votes, leading to eventual approval of the measure by 1,253 votes.

The thing that amazes me is that only 26,868 people voted out of the total 341,864 plus people living in St. Louis City and County at the time. Were only property owners allowed to vote? Thinking back, by this time, women were not yet allowed to vote, so that would have lowered the total.

I wonder if women would have had the vote, if the measure would have passed or failed?


LisaS said...

other factors: families were much larger back then, and the voting age was 21. so instead of half or two-thirds of the population being eligible to vote, perhaps a quarter to a third were.

but to directly answer your question ... i read recently that the vast majority of women mirror their husband's voting pattern. if that's true, it wouldn't have changed anything.

Rick Bonasch said...

Also, back in those days, life expectancy was much shorter, so not as many retired senior citizens on hand to vote, plus fewer people knew how to read, so probably weren't engaged in the political process.

On the other hand, you would think an issue of such local significance would have drawn a higher than average turnout.

I wonder how the turnouts back then compare to today, and if we're really as apathetic as we are told, or if things have always been this way?

Back then, with longer working days and everyone on foot or in horsedrawn carriages or on horseback, it was probably a lot harder just to get to the polls and find time to vote.