Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Historical Background
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.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964 marked the culmination of an endeavor begun in Congress in 1939 to eliminate the poll tax as a qualification for voting in federal elections. Property qualifications extend back to colonial days, but the poll tax itself as a qualification was instituted in eleven states of the South following the end of Reconstruction, although at the time of the ratification of this Amendment only five states still retained it.1 Congress viewed the qualification as “an obstacle to the proper exercise of a citizen’s franchise” and expected its removal to “provide a more direct approach to participation by more of the people in their government.” Congress similarly thought that a constitutional amendment was necessary,2 because the qualifications had previously survived constitutional challenges on several grounds.3
- Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. 528, 538–40, 543–44 (1965); United States v. Texas, 252 F. Supp. 234, 238–45 (W.D. Tex. 1966) (three-judge court), aff'd on other grounds, 384 U.S. 155 (1966).
- H.R. Rep. No. 1821, 87th Cong., 2d Sess. 3, 5 (1962).
- Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937); Saunders v. Wilkins, 152 F.2d 235 (4th Cir. 1945), cert. denied, 328 U.S. 870 (1946); Butler v. Thompson, 97 F. Supp. 17 (E.D. Va), aff’d, 341 U.S. 937 (1951).
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