Why Voter ID Laws/Requirements Are Unconstitutional Poll Taxes ( See 24th Amendment)


Prior to the 2006 mid-term elections, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition for voting.

It is a fact that for over 200 years in America voters did not show gov’t issued ID to vote in elections.

For decades voter registration cards were issued to voters without any state requirement for a state-issued identification card before one can vote.

Since 2006 election researchers know that states requiring gov’t issued ID in order to vote, reduced the black and minority vote significantly, due to poor people’s inability to pay the up front costs of obtaining a birth certificate and getting a gov’t issued ID card made. ($50-250)

The GAO estimated that up to 25% of African Americans do not have a birth certificate or a gov’t issued ID card or driver’s license.

Think it doesn’t matter? No big deal? In 2016 Donald Trump won Wisconsin by a very thin margin of 23,000 votes; had there been no state voter ID requirement, that slim 23,000 vote margin would have most likely been overcome by the number of blacks who were unable to vote due to lack of having a State of Wisconsin issued ID card.

In 2020 candidate Joe Biden won Wisconsin by a slim margin of only about 20,600 votes; had not the Wisconsin Supreme Court stopped Republicans from throwing 129,000 Wisconsin voters off the voter rolls, Biden would have lost Wisconsin and Trump would have won Wisconsin again by the same exclusionary method.

From the 1890s to the 1960s, confederate states SUPPRESSED THE BLACK VOTE by administering literacy tests to black voters, purportedly to test their literacy in order to vote.

One such so-called “literacy test” was the “jellybeans test,” a technique White Establishmentarians used during the Jim Crow era, in which the registrar would ask Black voters to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar.

If Blacks guessed incorrectly – of course ANYBODY would — then they were deemed “illiterate” and thus denied the right to vote.

Poll taxes were another legal way for Whites to keep African Americans from voting in southern states – poll taxes were essentially a voting fee.

Eligible voters were required to pay their poll tax before they could cast a ballot.

A “grandfather clause” excused some poor whites from payment if they had an ancestor who voted before the Civil War, but there were no exemptions for African Americans.

In 1964 the Twenty-Fourth amendment prohibited the use of poll taxes for federal elections. Five states enforced payment of poll taxes for state elections until 1966, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional.


Federal courts have ruled that poll taxes are unconstitutional and have defined a poll tax as any undue burden set upon the voter.

In the 1965 Supreme Court decision Harman v. Forssenius, the Court unanimously found such measures unconstitutional.

It declared that for federal elections, “the poll tax is abolished absolutely as a prerequisite to voting, and no equivalent or milder substitute may be imposed.”

In 1966 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that poll taxes for any level of elections were unconstitutional.

A driver’s license or gov’t issued ID card requirement is tantamount to a poll tax and thus are patently unconstitutional.

The Republican Party believes the federal government should BUTT OUT of state control of U.S. elections in their states.

The Republican Party couldn’t be more wrong: the federal courts do indeed possess legal authority over U.S. elections in any state.

It’s called the United States of America, not the Land of Texas and to hell with the federal government.

My plan is to take federal elections completely out of the hands/manipulation by state officials in favor of a single federally-run national election system for U.S. elections.

I would rather create a new small federal agency to process federal elections than to allow bad state actors to manipulate and suppress the vote at the state party level.

Republicans and moderate Democrats agree: they both want to keep federal elections in the hands of state party officials so their party can manipulate the vote.

This bi-partisan phenom occurs in both Republican AND Democrat primaries. In 2016 and 2020, state party committees and officials manipulated federal election processes to their advantage.

VOTER ROLL PURGES

Guess what else happens when you allow state party officials to control the federal election process?

You allow VOTER ROLL PURGES, whereupon bad state officials intentionally and wrongfully remove hundreds of thousands and millions of legitimate voters from the voting rolls.

NBC NEWS reports that in two years time, Republican Party state officials have wrongfully removed up to (17) SEVENTEEN MILLION AMERICAN VOTERS OFF STATE VOTER ROLLS.

Republicans are stealing the vote and moderate Democrats know it and allow the GOP to steal Democrat votes, just to keep progressives OUT and moderate Democrats IN control of the Democratic Party.

Wisconsin Court Win Stops Purge of 129,000 Voters

Black Voters Matter, Palast found list “wrong and racist”

by Greg Palast – April 11, 2021

On Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to block the removal of 129,000 voters from the rolls. The Justices rejected a lawsuit brought by a right-wing group.

On September 23, 2020, Black Voters Matter issued a report by the Palast Investigative Fund which proved that, despite claims of the right-wing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, that 39,722 voters they claimed had moved away from the registration addresses, had not, in fact, moved at all.

Watch the video of our original report here:

The Palast team experts used sophisticated databases to analyze every name on the so-called “mover” list — and found that tens of thousands did not move at all.

But the report found that, overwhelmingly, the wrongly tagged voters were African-Americans in Milwaukee and students in Madison, Wisconsin, that is, core Democratic constituencies.

The State Elections Board, the only party allowed to defend against the purge by the Court, agreed with the finding that the purge would remove tens of thousand of legal voters and therefore refused to order the cancellation of these registrations.


President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by just 20,600 votes. Had the purge gone ahead, it is unlikely Biden could have taken the state.

Tens of thousands of postcards and calls were made to those the Palast Fund identified as wrongly targeted voters, along with a mass publicity campaign, to warn these voters to re-register.

The decision hardly ends the battle to protect the voter rolls and as the Court ruled on narrow jurisdictional grounds.

Black Voters Matter Fund issued my foundation’s report, Wisconsin “Movers” Purge List Errors with a link to SaveMyVote2020.org where we list every single voter wrongly facing erasure of their voting rights.

This was not a sampling nor an estimate. Rather, four experts in what is called, “Address List Hygiene”—the same experts that confirm your address for Amazon, eBay and Home Depot—conducted a name by name review of address using 240 tested data feeds—where you get your Netfix films, your mortgage, your taxes, your credit card purchases—to locate you with absolute precision.

In addition it was all checked with the Post Office’s designated licensee, Merkle Inc., in charge of maintaining the deep historic change-of-address files.

As an economist and statistician by training, the technical term for the “movers” purge list is, “garbage.”

Indeed, the State Board of Elections is resisting using a list they fear could be 15% wrong—unacceptable when the right of a citizen to vote is at stake.

But our experts found the list twice as error-filled as the state’s guesstimate.

Look at the maps of Greater Milwaukee. They reveal a near-perfect match between the percentage of Black voters in a Census tract with the number of voters wrongly tagged as having moved.

Rick Esenberg brought this lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL).

When I spoke to him, Esenberg admitted he had not checked his would-be voter cancellation list for accuracy.

He never heard of Address List Hygiene and claims he has no idea that the list is overloaded with Black and low-income voters.

WILL is backed by the right-wing Wisconsin billionaire Bradley family foundation.

That does not surprise Elections Commissioner Ann Jacobs who is blunt about their aim.

“I think it’s crystal clear the intent of this suit was to remove voters in Milwaukee and Madison…on behalf of the Republican Party in an attempt to gain an advantage …particularly for the Presidential race.”

Catch Esenberg, Jacobs and the full story in our 7-minute film.

Whatever the intent, how could Esenberg’s group get it so wrong? It begins with a misuse of what is called the “ERIC” list. ERIC is the Electronic Registration Information Center of Washington.

ERIC, controlled by 30 state officials uses a limited and amateurish system for identifying those who have moved from their registration address.

But that’s not a problem, as ERIC was not established to hunt voters for the purge but to find those who moved into a state or town and invite them to register.

ERIC often confuses common names like James Brown. But if the wrong James Brown gets a postcard inviting him to register, no harm done.

But the Wisconsin Legislature and then-Gov. Scott Walker added a stinger: If a voter does not return the postcard, they must be removed from the voter rolls.

The card looks like “junk mail” – so less than 2% returned it.

Our lead address verification expert John Lenser says, “not returning a postcard does not at all indicate someone has moved.

People think it’s so-called ‘junk mail’ and toss it.” Indeed, he says, unless a card is returned “undeliverable,” that is evidence the voter has not moved.

Mark Swedlund, a recognized expert in mailings, notes from Census studies that minority, young and urban residents don’t always receive mass mailings and respond at only a fraction of the rate of white, older, suburban homeowners.

In effect, the “Jim Crow” result is in the postcard return requirement.

The Palast Fund reached out to over 700 voters, and we heard the same story again and again: I never moved.

Adding to bias against low-income and young voters, these “junk mail” cards were sent to voters who moved within the cities of Milwaukee and Madison even though both federal and state law prohibits cancelling registrations of those who move within their city.

Our experts identified another 58,000 who moved within their county.

Typical is student Phyo Zin Kyaw of Madison College who told us he moved just two doors down yet faces loss of his vote.

LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright, co-founders of Black Voters Matter, who released the experts’ report, have had enough.

“There is a small right-wing group which wants to undermine Black voters and young voters. They are desperate because they are losing power — so they are resorting to cheating and undermining the election by any means.”

Palast Investigative Fund attorney Jeanne Mirer submitted a copy of our findings to the Wisconsin Attorney General and the Wisconsin Board of Elections.

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So where is SQUARE ONE when it comes to voting rights? SQUARE ONE is found in our U.S. Constitution: in the 14th Amendment, which codifies a voters’ U.S. constitutional right to vote; and the 24th Amendment, which prohibits “poll taxes” in U.S. elections.

What are “poll taxes?” The courts have defined poll taxes as any requirement which causes an undue burden on the voter, INCLUDING AND ESPECIALLY VOTER ID REQUIREMENTS.

Let me tell you what Republicans and even Democrats know: the GOP knows that ALL THE DATA INDICATES a state who requires state identification cards have lower minority voter turnout than states who do not require state ID cards or drivers licenses.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment (Amendment XXIV) of the United States Constitution prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax.

The amendment was proposed by Congress to the states on August 27, 1962, and was ratified by the states on January 23, 1965

Southern states of the former Confederate States of America adopted poll taxes in laws of the late 19th century and new constitutions from 1890 to 1908, after the Democratic Party had generally regained control of state legislatures decades after the end of Reconstruction, as a measure to prevent African Americans and often poor whites (and following passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, women) from voting.

Use of the poll taxes by states was held to be constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1937 decision Breedlove v. Suttles.

When the 24th Amendment was ratified in 1964, five states still retained a poll tax: Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.

The amendment prohibited requiring a poll tax for voters in federal elections.

But it was not until 1966 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6–3 in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that poll taxes for any level of elections were unconstitutional.

It said these violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Subsequent litigation related to potential discriminatory effects of voter registration requirements has generally been based on application of this clause.


THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

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.

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ACLU FACT SHEET: OPPOSE VOTER ID LEGISLATION

Voter identification laws are a part of an ongoing strategy to roll back decades of progress on voting rights. Thirty-four states have identification requirements at the polls. Seven states have strict photo ID laws, under which voters must present one of a limited set of forms of government-issued photo ID in order to cast a regular ballot – no exceptions.

Voter ID laws deprive many voters of their right to vote, reduce participation, and stand in direct opposition to our country’s trend of including more Americans in the democratic process.

Many Americans do not have one of the forms of identification states acceptable for voting.

These voters are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining ID, because they cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to obtaining government-issued photo ID card.

Voter ID Laws Deprive Many Americans of the Right to Vote

Millions of Americans Lack ID. 11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification.

1) Obtaining ID Costs Money: Even if ID is offered for free, voters must incur numerous costs (such as paying for birth certificates) to apply for a government-issued ID.
Underlying documents required to obtain ID cost money, a significant expense for lower-income Americans. The combined cost of document fees, travel expenses and waiting time are estimated to range from $75 to $175.

2) The travel required is often a major burden on people with disabilities, the elderly, or those in rural areas without access to a car or public transportation. In Texas, some people in rural areas must travel approximately 170 miles to reach the nearest ID office.

3) Voter ID Laws Reduce Voter Turnout: A 2014 GAO study found that strict photo ID laws reduce turnout by 2-3 percentage points, which can translate into tens of thousands of votes lost in a single state.

4) Voter ID Laws Are Discriminatory: Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.

5) States exclude forms of ID in a discriminatory manner: Texas allows concealed weapons permits for voting, but does not accept student ID cards. Until its voter ID law was struck down, North Carolina prohibited public assistance IDs and state employee ID cards, which are disproportionately held by Black voters. And until recently, Wisconsin permitted active duty military ID cards, but prohibited Veterans Affairs ID cards for voting.
Voter ID laws are enforced in a discriminatory manner. A Caltech/MIT study found that minority voters are more frequently questioned about ID than are white voters.

6) Voter ID laws reduce turnout among minority voters: Several studies, including a 2014 GAO study, have found that photo ID laws have a particularly depressive effect on turnout among racial minorities and other vulnerable groups, worsening the participation gap between voters of color and whites.

7) Voter ID Requirements are a Solution in Search of a Problem: In-person fraud is vanishingly rare. A recent study found that, since 2000, there were only 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation – the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – during a period of time in which over 1 billion ballots were cast.

8) Identified instances of “fraud” are honest mistakes. So-called cases of in-person impersonation voter “fraud” are almost always the product of an elections worker or a voter making an honest mistake, and that even these mistakes are extremely infrequent.

9) Voter ID laws are a waste of taxpayer dollars: States incur sizeable costs when implementing voter ID laws, including the cost of educating the public, training poll workers, and providing IDs to voters.
Texas spent nearly $2 million on voter education and outreach efforts following passage of its Voter ID law.

10) Indiana spent over $10 million to produce free ID cards between 2007 and 2010.

The ACLU has led the charge against Voter ID in several states, challenging voter ID laws in in states such as Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. For more information, please contact Robert Hoffman at rhoffman@aclu.org or visit ACLU to learn more.

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Beginning in 2005, many states began passing overly restrictive voter identification laws; laws that limit the types of identification that that voters could use when voting in person. In Texas, a voter can use your gun license to vote but not your student ID.

When the United States Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s law against a facial constitutional challenge in 2008, some legislatures saw this as a green light to pass more of these laws.

Although the court noted that there was no evidence to support Indiana’s claim that the law was needed to protect against voter impersonation fraud, it looked at history for evidence that such fraud was a possibility.

However, since that decision, surveys have found that recent voter fraud is rare and voter impersonation fraud is practically non-existent.

And, federal judge Richard Posner in a 2014 review of Wisconsin’s voter ID law wrote in a dissent that “[t]here is evidence that voter fraud is extremely rare and that photo ID requirements for voting . . . are likely to discourage voting.”

He went on to call some of the evidence of voter fraud “downright goofy, if not paranoid.”

But at the time immediately following the 2010 mid-term elections, many states passed restrictive ID laws, using the phantom justification of voter impersonation fraud.

Because these laws were controversial and strongly opposed by a vocal minority, some legislatures employed irregular procedures to get the bills passed.

Proponents also ignored amendments that would have expanded the types of required identification and minimized the disenfranchising effect of these laws.

Two of these ID laws were blocked or modified in litigation in the federal court in Washington, D.C. under the review that was then required by Section 5 the Voting Rights Act to prevent implementation of discriminatory voting changes.

Texas’ ID law was blocked and South Carolina agreed to have voters without the required ID to vote after signing an affidavit asserting that a reasonable impediment prevented them from getting the necessary ID.

However, following the Shelby County v. Holder decision that nullified the provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination in voting to submit their voting changes for federal review, Texas and North Carolina immediately moved to implement voter ID laws.

Texas dusted off the law that had been previously found to be discriminatory and put it into effect immediately and North Carolina added a range of repressive laws to the voter ID law it was considering before the Shelby decision.

It enacted what came to be known as the “monster law” which in addition to the photo ID law, eliminated same day registration, reduced early voting, got rid of pre-registration for citizens about to turn 18, and did not count provisional ballots cast out of precinct.

In recent weeks, after years of litigation and elections where eligible voters without the necessary ID were not able to vote, there have been a series of decisions that highlight the impact of restrictive photo ID laws.


The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Texas’ voter ID law violated the Voting Rights Act because it had a discriminatory effect against racial minorities.

In sending the plaintiffs’ discriminatory intent back to the trial court for further consideration, the court noted drafters of the law knew that it would have a discriminatory impact on minority voters and passed the law without including measures that would have lessened the discriminatory impact of the law.

The Fifth Circuit ordered the trial court to establish a remedy for November’s election and to determine its discriminatory intent after the election.

The parties have since agreed to an interim remedy that allows those without the required ID to use a non-photo document such as a utility bill and sign a declaration of reasonable impediment can vote a regular ballot.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, ruling that it had been passed with a discriminatory intent, noted that the legislative deliberately limited acceptable IDs to those that African Americans were unlikely to have.

The court found the reasonable impediment affidavit adopted by the state during the course of the litigation an insufficient remedy given its finding of discriminatory intent. North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory has vowed to appeal the ruling.

In granting a preliminary injunction limiting the use of Wisconsin’s photo ID law during the November election, the federal district court noted that the state’s purported interest in combating voter fraud, a claim for which they offered no support, did not outweigh the burden placed on the rights of voters.

In North Dakota, in granting preliminary injunction against the use of that state’s law in the November election, the court concluded that the state must provide Native Americans with an equal and meaningful opportunity to vote in November.

The court stated that “[n]o eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote.”

Now, it is imperative that the election officials constantly educate and update not only voters, but poll workers, about the laws that will be in effect for the upcoming election.

As a recent voter ID study by the Congressional Research Service noted: “Election Administration is complex and changes in ID requirements may affect elections in unanticipated ways, such as a need for more provisional ballots, increased waiting times at polling places and misapplication of the rules by poll workers.”

More important, the recent ID decisions show courts rejecting actions by legislatures that target certain voters for disfranchisement.

The courts are doing their part and now Congress needs to do its part. Congress must restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

It cannot allow this to be the first presidential election without the full protections of the VRA, the iconic civil rights law that transformed our democracy and gave all voters an equal voice in our democracy.

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POST-RATIFICATION LAW (24th Amend. ratified 1964)

Arkansas effectively repealed its poll tax for all elections with Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution at the November 1964 general election, several months after this amendment was ratified.

The poll-tax language was not completely stricken from its Constitution until Amendment 85 in 2008.

Of the five states originally affected by this amendment, Arkansas was the only one to repeal its poll tax; the other four retained their taxes.

These were struck down in 1966 by the US Supreme Court decision in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966), which ruled poll taxes unconstitutional even for state elections.

Federal district courts in Alabama and Texas, respectively, struck down these states’ poll taxes less than two months before the Harper ruling was issued.

The state of Virginia accommodated the amendment by providing an “escape clause” to the poll tax.

In lieu of paying the poll tax, a prospective voter could file paperwork to gain a certificate establishing a place of residence in Virginia.

The papers would have to be filed six months in advance of voting, and the voter had to provide a copy of that certificate at the time of voting.

This measure was expected to decrease the number of legal voters.

In the 1965 Supreme Court decision Harman v. Forssenius, the Court unanimously found such measures unconstitutional.

It declared that for federal elections, “the poll tax is abolished absolutely as a prerequisite to voting, and no equivalent or milder substitute may be imposed.”

While not directly related to the Twenty-fourth Amendment, the Harper case held that the poll tax was unconstitutional at every level, not just for federal elections. The Harper decision relied upon the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. As such, issues related to whether burdens on voting are equivalent to poll taxes in discriminatory effect have usually been litigated on Equal Protection grounds since.

Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction Era

History of the poll tax by state from 1868 to 1966

Southern states had adopted the poll tax as a requirement for voting as part of a series of laws in the late 19th century intended to exclude black Americans from politics so far as practicable without violating the Fifteenth Amendment.

This required that voting not be limited by “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. All voters were required to pay the poll tax, but in practice it most affected the poor.

Notably this affected both African Americans and poor white voters, some of whom had voted with Populist and Fusionist candidates in the late 19th century, temporarily disturbing Democratic rule.

Proponents of the poll tax downplayed this aspect and assured white voters they would not be affected. Passage of poll taxes began in earnest in the 1890s, as Democrats wanted to prevent another Populist-Republican coalition.

Despite election violence and fraud, African Americans were still winning numerous local seats.

By 1902, all eleven states of the former Confederacy had enacted a poll tax, many within new constitutions that contained other provisions as barriers to voter registration, such as literacy or comprehension tests administered subjectively by white workers.

The poll tax was used together with other devices such as grandfather clauses and the “white primary” designed to exclude blacks, as well as threats and acts of violence.

For example, potential voters had to be “assessed” in Arkansas, and blacks were utterly ignored in the assessment.

From 1900 to 1937, such use of the poll tax was nearly ignored by the federal government.

Several state-level initiatives repealed poll taxes during this period for two reasons: firstly that they encouraged corruption since wealthy persons could and would pay other people’s poll taxes; secondly, because they discouraged white voting more than many populist Southern politicians desired.

The poll tax survived a legal challenge in 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 Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

The issue remained prominent, as most African Americans in the South were disenfranchised. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke out against the tax. He publicly called it “a remnant of the Revolutionary period” that the country had moved past.

However, Roosevelt’s favored liberal Democrats in the South lost in the 1938 primaries to the reigning conservative Southern Democrats, and he backed off the issue.

He felt that he needed Southern Democratic votes to pass New Deal programs and did not want to further antagonize them.

Still, efforts at the Congressional level to abolish the poll tax continued.

A 1939 bill to abolish the poll tax in federal elections was tied up by the Southern Block, lawmakers whose long tenure in office from a one-party region gave them seniority and command of numerous important committee chairmanships.

A discharge petition was able to force the bill to be considered, and the House passed the bill 254–84. However, the bill was unable to defeat a filibuster in the Senate by Southern senators and a few Northern allies who valued the support of the powerful and senior Southern seats.

This bill would be re-proposed in the next several Congresses. It came closest to passage during World War II, when opponents framed abolition as a means to help overseas soldiers vote.

However, after learning that the US Supreme Court decision Smith v. Allwright (1944) banned the use of “white primary”, the Southern block refused to approve abolition of the poll tax.

In 1946, the Senate came close to passing the bill. 24 Democrats and 15 Republicans approved an end to debate, while 7 non-southern Democrats and 7 Republicans joined the 19 Southern Democrats in opposition.

The result was a 39–33 vote in favor of the bill, but a cloture vote to end the filibuster required a two-thirds supermajority of 48 votes at the time, and so the bill was not brought to a vote.

Those in favor of abolition of the poll tax considered a constitutional amendment after the 1946 defeat, but that idea did not advance either.

The tenor of the debate changed in the 1940s. Southern politicians tried to re-frame the debate as a constitutional issue, but private correspondence indicates that black disenfranchisement was still the true concern.

For instance, Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo declared, “If the poll tax bill passes, the next step will be an effort to remove the registration qualification, the educational qualification of Negroes. If that is done we will have no way of preventing the Negroes from voting.”

This fear explains why even Southern Senators from states that had abolished the poll tax still opposed the bill; they did not want to set a precedent that the federal government could interfere in state elections.

President Harry S. Truman established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which among other issues investigated the poll tax.

Considering that opposition to federal poll tax regulation in 1948 was claimed as based on the Constitution, the Committee noted that a constitutional amendment might be the best way to proceed.

Still, little occurred during the 1950s. Members of the anti-poll tax movement laid low during the anti-Communist frenzy of the period; some of the main proponents of poll tax abolition, such as Joseph Gelders and Vito Marcantonio, had been committed Marxists.[11]

President John F. Kennedy returned to this issue. His administration urged Congress to adopt and send such an amendment to the states for ratification.

He considered the constitutional amendment the best way to avoid a filibuster, as the claim that federal abolition of the poll tax was unconstitutional would be moot.

Still, some liberals opposed Kennedy’s action, feeling that an amendment would be too slow compared to legislation.

Spessard Holland, a conservative Democrat from Florida, introduced the amendment to the Senate. Holland had opposed most civil rights legislation during his career, and Kennedy’s gaining his support helped splinter the monolithic Southern opposition to the amendment.

Ratification of the amendment was relatively quick, taking slightly more than a year; it was rapidly ratified by state legislatures across the country from August 1962 to January 1964.

President Lyndon B. Johnson called the amendment a “triumph of liberty over restriction” and “a verification of people’s rights.”

States that had maintained the poll tax were more reserved. Mississippi’s Attorney General, Joseph Turner Patterson, complained about the complexity of two sets of voters – those who had paid their poll tax and could vote in all elections, and those who had not and could vote only in federal elections.

Additionally, non-payers could still be deterred by such requirements as having to register far in advance of the election and retain records of such registration.

Some states also continued to exercise discrimination in the application of literacy tests.

Why Voter ID Laws/Requirements Are Unconstitutional Poll Taxes ( See 24th Amendment)

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