OPINION: North Carolina House Moves to Ditch Old Poll Test (Literacy Test Repeal Coming 113 Years af
The Tuesday May 14, 2013 edition of the News and Observer, daily paper of Raleigh, NC, reported in an article entitled, “House moves to ditch old poll test”, that North Carolina Lawmakers want to ask voters one more time to remove what they call a stain form the state constitution. The article states that House lawmakers approved a constitution amendment Monday, May 13, 2013, to repeal the state’s literacy test for voting, a provision aimed at restricting black voters that has remained in the state’s guiding document for long after it was voided.
NC State Representative Mickey Michaux, a Durham, NC, Democrat and the first black U.S. attorney in the South since Reconstruction, was quoted in the article written by John Frank, as saying “All we’re asking is just for it to be taken out, so it won’t be a burden to us”. The deletion of the NC literacy test is one of two elections-related bills that won approval at the start of a crucial week at the NC General Assembly called the “crossover”.
The literacy test repeal is coming 113 years after it was put into the NC state constitution by the Democratic-controlled legislature in 1899 and approved by voters a year late in 1900. The article indicates, as the NC constitution reads now, “every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language”. The Voting Rights Act approved by Congress in 1964 outlawed poll tests, but a referendum in 1970 to repeal the language failed. The article states that the House lawmakers approved the bill 114-0 to put it on the May 2014 ballot. This matter needs a final vote from the House, before going to the NC Senate for consideration.
Because of such Jim Crow legislation in the State of North Carolina, US Congressman George Henry White (GHW) could not get re-elected and decided in 1901 to not run for a 3rd term in the US Congress, leaving it an all white group. GHW was the last black person from the state of NC to serve in the US Congress, until the election of Eva M. Clayton in 1992.
Submitted by: Vincent Spaulding, Cary, NC, May 15 2013