[Constitution of the United States of America:  Analysis, and Interpretation - 1992 Edition ]
[Amendments to the Constitution]
[Twenty-Fourth Amendment - Abolition of the Poll Tax Qualification in Federal Elections]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1989]]

                         TWENTY-FOURTH AMENDMENT

  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.

                     EXPANSION OF THE RIGHT TO VOTE

        Ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment marked the 
culmination of an endeavor begun in Congress in 1939 to effect 
elimination of 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 a constitutional 
amendment necessary,\2\ inasmuch as the qualifications had previously 
escaped constitutional challenge on several grounds.\3\ However, not 
long after ratification of the Amendment Congress by statute had impuned 
the continuing validity of the poll tax as a

[[Page 1990]]
qualification in state elections\4\ and the Supreme Court had voided it 
as a violation of the equal protection clause.\5\

        \1\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.) (three-
judge court), aff'd on other grounds, 384 U.S. 155 (1966).
        \2\H.R. Rep. No. 1821, 87th Cong., 2d Sess. 3, 5 (1962).
        \3\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).
        \4\Voting Rights Act of 1965, 10, 79 Stat. 442, 42 U.S.C. 
Sec. 1973h. For the results of actions instituted by the Attorney 
General under direction of this section, see United States v. Texas, 252 
F. Supp. 234 (W.D. Tex.) (three-judge court). aff'd on other grounds, 
384 U.S. 155 (1966); United States v. Alabama, 252 F. Supp. 95 (M.D. 
Ala. 1966) (three-judge court).
        \5\Harper v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 

        In Harman v. Forssenius,\6\ the Court struck down a Virginia 
statute which eliminated the poll tax as an absolute qualification for 
voting in federal elections and gave federal voters the choice either of 
paying the tax or of filing a certificate of residence six months before 
the election. Viewing the latter requirement as imposing upon voters in 
federal elections an onerous procedural requirement which was not 
imposed on those who continued to pay the tax, the Court unanimously 
held the law to conflict with the new Amendment by penalizing those who 
chose to exercise a right guaranteed them by the Amendment.

        \6\380 U.S. 528 (1965).