Twenty-fourth Amendment Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that eliminated the poll tax as a qualification for voting in federal elections.

Poll taxes, taxes that had to be paid before a person could vote,Vote, right to had been used to disenfranchise African Americans in the South since the mid-1800’s. In Breedlove v. Suttles[case]Breedlove v. Suttles[Breedlove v. Suttles] (1937), the Supreme Court upheld a Georgia poll tax despite a challenge based on the equal protection and privileges and immunities clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.Poll taxesPoll taxes

Through the enactment of the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964, Congress prohibited the use of poll taxes in federal elections. Virginia passed a statute that sought to circumvent the new amendment by offering voters the choice of either paying the tax or filing a certificate of residence six months before the election; however, the Court struck down this law in Harman v. Forssenius[case]Harman v. Forssenius[Harman v. Forssenius] (1965) because it penalized those who chose to exercise a right already guaranteed by the amendment.

In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections[case]Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections[Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections] (1966), the Court outlawed the poll tax as a voting requirement in state and local elections. Justice Hugo L. Black, the only remaining member of the Court that had rendered the 1937 decision, dissented.

Breedlove v. Suttles

Equal protection clause

Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections

Poll taxes

Vote, right to

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