The 24th amendment

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24th Amendment Notes

Section 1 of the 24th amendment says:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President of Vice President, for electors for President of Vice President, or for Senator of 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 of the 24th amendment says:

“The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The 24th amendment is about eliminating poll taxes and any other deterrents from anyone voting in federal elections.

In 1939, Congress began to try to get rid of the poll tax, but history was not behind them. After all, in colonial times the tax was to raise funds for the colonies. Using the poll tax was one of the last legal ways of keeping the poor and minority groups from participating in voting after the fifteenth amendment. With a poll tax, in order to vote, a certain amount of money, or tax, must be paid. The tax could be in different amounts of money throughout the states. This tax allowed the generally more wealthy white population access to the polls with little loss. The other minority groups such as the poor, African-Americans, and Hispanics had to give up much more just to vote such as food or property if they did not have enough money to pay the tax. There were also other methods of excluding the minority groups from voting and those were the grandfather clause, and the literacy test. This amendment ended all three of these acts.

Proposal and Ratification

This amendment was proposed by the Eighty-seventh Congress by Senate Joint Resolution No 29, which was approved by the House of Representatives on August 27, 1962 (which is when it was proposed as well). Within a year and a half, it was ratified on January 23, 1964. 38 states out of the 50 states approved the 24th amendment. Up until the 24th amendment was ratified, only five states still used the poll tax and they were; Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.

Court Case

Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections
(Argued January 25-26, 1966)

(Decided March 24, 1966)

In its landmark 1966 ruling, Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, the Supreme Court stated for the first time that wealth couldn’t be a determinant factor in our elections. Annie Harper, a poor Virginia voter and a group of poor voters with her had challenged a $1.50 poll tax, which Virginia charged to voters for participating in its state elections. Prior to this case, the Supreme Court had twice before upheld the poll tax as constitutional. But this time, the Supreme Court finally declared it unconstitutional. The Court struck down the poll tax barrier as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, holding that "a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard. Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth."

This case appealed from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to the U.S. Supreme Court.