Closing Polling Places is the 21st Century’s Version of a Poll TaxRoundup
tags: elections, voting rights, poll tax, Vote Suppression
Joshua F.J. Inwood is Associate Professor of Geography and Senior Research Associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University.
Derek H. Alderman is Professor of Geography, University of Tennessee.
Following the Civil War and the extension of the vote to African Americans, state governments worked to block black people, as well as poor whites, from voting. One way they tried to accomplish this goal was through poll taxes – an amount of money each voter had to pay before being allowed to vote.
This practice was abolished by the passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964. Further protections for nonwhite voters came with the Voting Rights Act, which closely followed the Selma to Montgomery civil rights protest marches 55 years ago, in March 1965.
But in recent years, new barriers have gone up that, we believe, constitute a new type of poll tax on working people and minority voters. We are scholars of the American civil rights movement, including the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s voting rights efforts.
Unlike past poll taxes, the modern poll tax isn’t paid in money, but in time – how long it takes a person to get to a polling place, and, once there, how long it takes for them to actually cast their ballot.
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