Voting Rights

Imagine being granted the right to vote for the very first time, only to be turned away at the polls because you had no money to pay to vote! Until 1964 this was a common occurrence in many states. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 24th amendment. This amendment to the United States Constitution banned the use of "poll taxes" in federal elections, finally  clearing the way for broader voter participation.  These Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax back in 1950 in Richmond, VA.

Virginia Union University students protest the poll tax, Richmond, VA. Date: ca. 1950 Collection: L. Douglas Wilder Library, Virginia Union University.Back in 1917, the state of Louisiana charged a $1 poll tax  – that’s an equivalent of $20.09 by 2014 standards.

In addition to poll taxes, some states required literacy tests before voters were allowed to cast their votes. Such tests were often confusing and had nothing to do with the issues or candidates on the ballot. Here is a sample literacy test...


2014 also marks the 90th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act granting Native Americans all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

To learn more about the Voting Rights Act, and the history of voting rights in the United States, take a look at this timeline created by the ACLU documenting major voting rights milestones from 1867 to the present.

And, for some basics about voting and elections, try this pbs kids site and make your own future voter card!

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