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In 1870, the 14th Amendment assured former slaves the right to vote, a right enforced in the South after the gap in participation caused by the Civil War by the presence of Union troops. When Reconstruction ended and troops were withdrawn as part of the resolution of the disputed 1876 presidential election, participation in the South began a long decline. Late nineteenth century populist progressivism in Texas helped keep voter turnout high until Democrat William Jennings Bryan lost the presidential contest of 1896. Thereafter, Texas has largely followed the Southern trend. Not until the early 1950s when increasing national Democratic Party opposition to the Southern system of segregation began to push Southern Democrats to the Republican Party in presidential contests did Southern turnout begin to increase. As the battle for civil rights turned from education to voting rights, Southern party competition – and along with it voter participation – steadily rose to a level today almost on par with the rest of the nation.