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Unpublished Paper
Wealth v. Democracy: The Unfulfilled Promise of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.
ExpressO (2010)
  • David A Schultz, Hamline University
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment banning the poll tax is a constitutional curiosity. With the single exception of one Court decision, the Amendment has never been successfully invoked to protect the right to vote. This article seeks to unsilence and resurrect the Twenty-Fourth Amendment and to make the case for a broader interpretation of it that takes off from where decisions such as Harman and Harper end. Specifically, the Article seeks to disconnect the poll tax from a narrow reading of its legacy during the Jim Crow era when its primary purpose was to disenfranchise African-Americans. Instead, the poll tax should be understood in terms of its broader historical purpose, to prohibit the practice of restricting voting to propertied freeholders in order to ensure that only those who had sufficient wealth or income had a voice in elections. The broader purpose of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment thus should be read as a rejection of this linkage between wealth and voting, and a severing of the assumption that property or income is a perquisite to having a political voice. Given this broader, meaning, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment should be interpreted to prohibit voter photo identification laws, durational voter registration laws, felon disenfranchisement practices, and other practices that deny voting and voting related activities due to wealth-based burdens.
Publication Date
April 21, 2010
Citation Information
David A Schultz. "Wealth v. Democracy: The Unfulfilled Promise of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment." ExpressO (2010)
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