Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address 188.8.131.52. If your access is via an institutional subscription, please contact your librarian to request reinstatement. If you are using a personal subscription, please contact the Duke University Press using the Contact Us form.
The defense of electoral “purity” against intrusion, corruption, and fraud has historically bound US voting to a pernicious set of gendered and racial narratives, chief among them the routine depiction of the ballot as a white woman whose iconic, vulnerable body inscribes the limits of national belonging. By paying particular attention to the writings of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Thomas Dixon Jr., and William Faulkner, the essay traces the fixation on “the purity of the ballot box” from its moorings in the post-Reconstruction South to its reemergence in the disputed 2000 presidential election and its consequence for the doomed Voting Rights Act.