CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – North Carolina lawmakers are trying to eliminate a Jim Crow-era policy that still resides in the State’s constitution.
Despite being federally unconstitutional, the Literacy Test has remained on North Carolina’s Constitution since it was first implemented in 1900.
But on Thursday, lawmakers filed a bill in the North Carolina House to remove the section.
Article 6, Section Four of North Carolina’s Constitution says:
“Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the constitution in the English language.”
“People whose parents and grandparents had been able to vote were exempted from these requirements,” said Mitch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation. “So basically, white voters, if they couldn’t read, they still could be able to vote. It was used to ensure that black voters whose grandparents couldn’t vote because they had been slaves that they would not be able to register to vote.”
Kokai pointed out; N.C. Constitution was written differently when the State was established; that section was added to the constitution in 1900, during the Jim-Crow era.
“This was something that was done as part of a political strategy to stop blacks from voting,” Kokai said. “Luckily for all of us, the federal government stepped in and said, you couldn’t do that anymore in the mid-1960s.”
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North Carolina lawmakers tried to eliminate the literacy test section in 1970, but once the revision was put on the ballot, the public voted to keep it. Now lawmakers are giving it another shot.
Representative Sarah Stevens is one of the members leading the charge.
“It certainly cleans up our constitution,” Stevens said. “It is illegal anyway, based on the U.S. Constitution, and this is an issue and thing of cleaning up our own constitution.”
If three-fifths of the legislature approves the bill, it will be on the next ballot for the public to decide.
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