Twenty-fourth Amendment (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: State and federal governments are forbidden to impose poll taxes as a qualification for voting.
Summary of Event
Poll taxes, or the payment of a fee in order to vote, originated after the Revolutionary War as a means of expanding the electorate. At the end of the eighteenth century, the right to vote was restricted to white, male property owners. The poll tax became a substitute for the property qualification and allowed more men the right to vote.
It was not until after the Civil War that the poll tax was used by Southern states to prevent voting by African Americans and poor whites. Florida was the first Southern state to adopt the poll tax, in 1889, and other Southern states quickly followed. The poll tax, in conjunction with other voting barriers such as white primaries and literacy tests, was effective in eliminating most blacks from the voter registration lists, as well as many poor whites.
Most states imposed a tax of between one and two dollars, and the tax was cumulative. Voters had to pay the tax every year, not just the year they wanted to vote. In Alabama, the tax could accumulate for twenty-four years. Many states gave exemptions for the aged, disabled, or veterans. The veterans’ exemption angered many women, who were limited by law from serving in the military and, therefore, had to pay the tax. As a result, many women led the opposition to the poll tax....
(The entire section is 1299 words.)
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Twenty-Fourth Amendment (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
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.
The Twenty-fourth Amendment was proposed on August 27, 1962, and ratified on January 23, 1964. It prohibits the federal government or the states from making voters pay a poll tax before they can vote in a national election. A poll tax, also called a head tax, is a tax collected equally from all voters. The amendment was proposed as a CIVIL RIGHTS measure because southern states had used the poll tax to keep African Americans from voting.
POLL TAXES were commonly imposed in the United States at the time the Constitution was adopted but had fallen into disuse by the mid-nineteenth century. After the ratification of the FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT in 1870, the poll tax was revived in the South as a way to prevent African Americans, who were mostly poor, from voting. The poll tax also denied poor whites the...
(The entire section is 396 words.)