Voting While Poor: Reviving the 24th Amendment and Eliminating the Modern-Day Poll Tax
Written By: Valencia Richardson
The cost of voting is too high for millions of eligible voters. The Twenty-Fourth Amendment was ratified to address barriers which specifically prevent the poor from voting, after Post-Reconstruction politicians erected poll taxes as an end-run around universal enfranchisement. Today, costs associated with complying with burdensome voting requirements push voters into an untenable choice: pay a price they cannot afford to vote, or not vote at all. This Note challenges existing case law to argue that modern-day poll taxes should be impermissible under the Twenty-Fourth Amendment. This Note proposes a new theory under which to state Twenty-Fourth Amendment claims for modern-day poll taxes which unconstitutionally force the poor to waive their right to vote. Three modern-day poll taxes are addressed: voter registration procedures, strict voter identification requirements, and polling place closure and consolidation. In arguing for specific modern-day poll taxes, this Note quantifies the costs of voting barriers for people living in poverty and uses that quantity to justify reducing those costs and to state constitutional claims of burdens on the fundamental right to vote. Those costs bear stark resemblance to the costs of the literal poll taxes that precipitated the ratification of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment and constitute an impermissible burden under the Supreme Court’s existing doctrine regarding the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.
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