Idaho Test Oath (1885)

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The Idaho Test Oath in effect made it illegal for any Mormon in the state of Idaho to vote or hold public office. This disfranchisement was achieved through a test oath that every perspective voter was required to swear to prior to being allowed to vote.

Any person “who is a member of any order, organization, or association which teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages its members or devotees, or any other persons, to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy” was barred from voting.

This law was upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court on February 3, 1890. For Court’s final decision see DAVIS V. BEASON, 133 U. S. 333 (1890).

The following was taken from Laws of the territory of Idaho: An Act for Holding Elections, 1884-1885, pp. 106-117. Only the relevant sections are quoted. The sections which are quoted are quoted in their entirety. See part of the legislation at Google Books. 

TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING ELECTIONS AND PRESCRIBING THE QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Idaho, as follows:

Section 1.All male inhabitants over the age of twenty-one years, who are citizens of the United States, and have resided in the Territory four months, and in the county where they offer to vote, thirty days, next preceding the day of election, shall be entitled to vote at any election for delegate to Congress, and to Territorial, County and Precinct officers. All persons having qualifications of an elector, shall be eligible to any office within this Territory, except as otherwise provided by law.

Sec. 2. No person under guardianship, non compos mentis, or insane, nor any person convicted of treason, felony or bribery, in this Territory, or in any other State or Territory in the Union, unless restored to civil rights, nor any person who is a bigamist or polygamist, or who teaches, advises, counsels or encourages any person or persons to become bigamists or polygamists, or to commit any other crime defined by law, or to enter into what is known as plural or celestial marriage, or who is a member of any order, organization, or association which teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages its members or devotees, or any other persons, to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy, or any other crime defined by law, either as a rite or ceremony of such order, organization or association, or otherwise, shall be permitted to vote at any election, or to hold any position or office of honor, trust or profit, within this Territory.

Sec. 16. If any person offering to vote shall be challenged by any Judge or Clerk of the election, or any other person entitled to vote at the same poll, and either Judge shall challenge any person offering to vote whom he shall know or suspect not to be qualified, one of the Judges shall declare to the person so challenged the qualifications of an elector, if such person shall then declare himself duly qualified, and the challenge be not withdrawn, one of the Judges shall then tender him the following oath:

You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you are a male citizen of the United States, over the age of twenty-one years; that you have actually resided in this Territory for four months last past, and in the county thirty days; that you are not a bigamist or polygamist; that you are not a member of any order, organization or association which teaches, advises, counsels or encourages its members, devotees or any other persons to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy or any other crime defined by law, as a duty arising or resulting from membership in such order, organization or association, or which practices bigamy or polygamy or plural or celestial marriage, as a doctrinal rite of such organization. That you do not, either publicly or privately, or in any manner whatever teach, advise, counsel, or encourage any person to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy or any other crime defined by law either as a religious duty or otherwise. That you regard the Constitution of the United States, and the laws thereof and of this Territory as interpreted by the courts, as the supreme law of the land, the teachings of any order, organization or association to the contrary notwithstanding, and that you have not previously voted at this election. So help you God.

If the person offering to vote be a naturalized citizen and does not produce his certificate of naturalization, the Judge of the election shall propound the following interrogatories:

First—In what country were you born?
Second—How long have you resided in the United States?
Third—When and before whom did you declare your intention to become a citizen of the United States?
Fourth—When and in what court were you finally admitted to citizenship?
Fifth—When did you last see your certificate of naturalization, and where is it now, if you know?

These interrogatories shall be answered under oath, and if it appear that the person offering to vote has been duly naturalized in a competent court, and he possess all the other qualifications of a voter, his vote shall be received, otherwise it shall be rejected. Provided, that when a person is entitled to vote only for a part of the officers voted for at such election, the oath shall be varied accordingly, and the Clerk shall enter the names of all persons who are challenged on the poll lists, and the word sworn, in the brackets, opposite such name, and such entry shall be presumptive evidence that such voter was sworn, and if any persona shall refuse to take the oath so tendered, his vote shall be rejected.

Sec. 43. If any person offering to vote at any election in this Territory shall willfully, corruptly and falsely swear, or affirm, touching his qualifications as a voter, he shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment in the Territorial prison for a term not less than three nor more than ten years.

Sec. 44. If any person, not a legal voter, and possessing all the qualifications prescribed for voters in this act, or who is laboring under any of the disabilities mentioned in section 2 of this act, shall vote at any election in this Territory, or shall hold or exercise any office, or position of public trust, he shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not less than thirty days nor more than one year, or both so fined an imprisoned, in the discretion of the court.

Approved February 3, 1885.

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