Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, granting every US citizen the equal right to vote by prohibiting poll taxes in federal elections. Poll taxes began in the post-Reconstruction South as part of a concerted effort to prevent African Americans from voting. Unfortunately, the enacted laws and ruthless violence were effective. In Mississippi, fewer than 10% of eligible African Americans were registered to vote after 1890. In Louisiana, registrations fell by 99% in less than a decade, from 130,000 in 1896 to just 1,342 in 1904. By the time of the 24th Amendment in 1964, five states (VA, AL, MS, AR and TX) still retained a poll tax to keep African Americans and poor whites from the polls.
We've come a long way since 1964, but as noted by President Barack Obama in his farewell address last week, our constitutional right to vote is once again under attack.
Politicians in many states are attempting to erect barriers to voting. Voter ID, the elimination of polling locations, and shortened timelines for early voting are just some of the many ways that they seek to drive up the cost of voting (in both money and time). Poll taxes were once claimed to be necessary for the state to raise revenue, but the true genesis is now commonly understood and acknowledged. Similarly, those who claim the need for Voter ID invoke the bogeyman of fraud, despite there being no evidence of voter fraud at any tangible scale.
This is, in essence, our fight against a modern day poll tax. Join us in this struggle to protect EQUALITY in our democracy.