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Thu Jan 23, 2014, 06:53 PM

24th Amendment, outlawing poll taxes, turns 50

The 24th Amendment is going to be litigated in the Texas voter id case later this year http://thevoterupdate.com/trail/?p=1209#.UuGbRGfnYY3

Today marks 50 years since ratification of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting poll taxes in federal elections.

It was on Jan. 23, 1964 that South Dakota became the 38th state to approve the amendment, completing the ratification process nearly 18 months after Congress passed the measure 77-16 in the Senate and 295-86 in the House.

Adoption of the amendment officially outlawed the practice of charging a fee for voting, which had been used by some Southern states to suppress black voter turnout after the 15th Amendment extended suffrage to African-Americans in 1870.

“The tide of a strong national desire to bring about the broadest possible public use of the voting process runs too strong to hold back,” President Lyndon Johnson said upon ratification of the amendment. “In a free land where men move freely and act freely, the right to vote freely must never be obstructed.”

The Poll Tax is relevant today when in Texas one can not vote without paying a poll tax of $3 to $22 in order to vote. Mark Veasey has raised this issue in the Texas voter id case and I think that the issue has some merit. For example the Missouri state Supreme Court held that a similar law was a poll tax Weinschenk v. State, 203 SW 3d 201 - Mo: Supreme Court 2006 http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16462019301480907426

Plaintiffs in this case, on the other hand, offered testimony of specific Missouri voters who will have to incur the costs associated with birth certificates and other documentation to acquire a photo ID and vote. Specifically, Plaintiff Weinschenk will have to pay $12 for her birth certificate; Plaintiff von Glahn, who was asked to pay $11 for his "free" non-driver's license required to vote under the statute, will have to pay another $20 for his birth certificate. Others, like Plaintiff Mullaney, may have to incur more substantial costs for additional documentation because their names have changed since their birth. Additionally, elections officials testified to the substantial number of other otherwise qualified Missouri voters who also must pay a fee in order to vote.

Based on this evidence, the trial court found that this cost was directly connected to Plaintiffs' exercise of the right to vote. The trial court also found that the citizens who currently lack the requisite photo ID are generally "the least equipped to bear the costs." For Missourians who live beneath the poverty line, the $15 they must pay in order to obtain their birth certificates and vote is $15 that they must subtract from their meager ability to feed, shelter, and clothe their families. The exercise of fundamental rights cannot be conditioned upon financial expense. Cf. Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 16-19 (1956) (holding that due process and equal protection require that indigent defendants are entitled to pursue appeals without payment of costs). In this case, Plaintiffs proved that these costs must be incurred for citizens who lack the SB 1014 mandated photo IDs to exercise their right to vote.

Given the attention to this issue, it is very appropriate to celebration this amendment

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