24th Amendment Radification

On January 23, 1964, the states ratified the Twenty-fourth Amendment. This amendment said:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Since the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, which gave African American men the right to vote, states attempted to find ways to exclude those people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. One of the most common ways they did this was through poll taxes.

In order to vote, all voters were required to pay a poll tax. However, most African American people could not afford these taxes.

The poll tax survived many legal challenges, including the 1937 Supreme Court case Breedlove v Suttles, which unanimously ruled that “The privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the 15th and 19th amendments and other provisions of the federal constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.”

For much of the Reconstruction period and up until the 1960s, poll taxes were a prerequisite to registering to vote in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. These poll taxes were sometimes used alone or combined with literacy tests.

Just because poll taxes and literacy tests have been abolished does not mean that parties have not found other ways to restrict voter access.

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