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1. House Report No. 1689, 86th Congress, 2nd Session, 1959.

2. Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 1st Session, 1959, 105, Pt. 2: 1317.

3. Senate Report No. 561, 86th Congress, 1st Session, 1959.

4. Ibid.

5. Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 1st Session, 1959, 105, Pt. 2: 1320, 13801383, 1528-1541, 1598-1624, 1715-1728, 1744, 1748, 1749-1757.

6. Ibid., 1757-1762, 1764.

7. Ibid., 1765.

8. House Report No. 1698, 86th Congress, 2nd Session, 1960.

9. Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 2nd Session, 1960, 106, Pt. 10, 12858.

10. Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, The Constitution of the United States, (Richmond, 1965), 40.


SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Throughout the history of the United States, the Constitution had protected the right of each individual State to determine its own Federal election procedures and voting qualifications. This right was founded on Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution:

Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.

In the opinon of many, this power was frequently used by the States as a means to discriminate against potential voters. Early in the Nation's history, ownership of property was requisite to the right to vote. Property requirements, however, were gradually abandoned in favor of poll taxes. After the Civil War, in particular, poll tax statutes were established in several States in order to prevent Negroes from voting.1 Consequently, during the debates over the Twenty-fourth Amendment, its proponents fought against poll tax statutes as being discriminatory in nature. Citing a study conducted by the American Heritage Foundation in the early 1960s, proponents pointed out that the five States that enforced a poll tax during the 1960 presidential election were among the bottom seven States in the percentage of citizens voting.

Opponents of the Twenty-fourth Amendment, on the other hand, could point to ample evidence to support their argument that poll taxes were not discriminatory and could be properly enforced according to State discretion. For example, in 1951 the Supreme Court, in Butler v. Thompson, rendered a decision which reads in part:

The decisions generally hold that a State statute which imposes a reasonable poll tax as a condition of the right to vote does not abridge the privileges of immunities of the citizens of the United States which are protected by the 14th Amendment. The privilege of voting is derived from the State and not from the National Government. The qualification of voters in an election of Members of Congress is set out in article I, section 2, clause 1 of the Federal Constitution, which provides that the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.2

Earlier, in 1937, the Supreme Court had made another ruling regarding the validity of poll taxes. In the case of Breedlove v. Suttles, the Court decided that:

To make payment of poll taxes a prerequisite to voting is not to deny any privilege or immunity protected by the 14th amendment. Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the State, and, save as restrained by the 15th and 19th amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the State may condition suffrage as may deem appropriate.3

Additional evidence supporting those who favored State's rights in establishing poll taxes was seen in The Civil Rights Commission Report of 1959. The report ruled that poll taxes could not be considered discriminatory, primarily because they were extremely difficult to administer so as to bar Negroes from voting. In 1961, the Commission report again contained no references to poll taxes as being used to discriminate against blacks.4

If, on the other hand, poll taxes could have been clearly shown to be discriminatory, statutory legislation prohibiting their use could have easily been enacted under the Fourteenth of Fifteenth Amendments. However, no such findings had been verified. Moreover, the protection of State's rights in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, along with the Supreme Court decisions in Butler and Breedlove, virtually ensured that poll taxes would continue to be enforced in the States. As a result, those seeking the abolition of poll taxes concluded that nothing short of an amendment to the Constitution would prohibit the continued practice of taxing otherwise eligible voters at the polls.

The first to introduce such an amendment was Senator Spessand L. Holland of Florida, on January 13, 1947.5 As a State Senator in Florida during the 1930s Senator Holland had launched a campaign against poll taxes and had been successful in passing legislation to repeal the tax in his home State. Holland's first resolution to repeal the poll tax was defeated in the Senate, as were six identical resolutions introduced by the Senator in the next six successive sessions.6


On February 26, 1961, the last of Senator Holland's resolutions, S.J. Res. 58 (87th Cong.), was introduced and referred to the Judiciary Committee." By June of 1961, the Resolution had gained 67 cosponsors and seemed certain to pass the Senate. However, Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and other members of the Committee were strongly opposed to efforts to repeal the poll tax. Consequently, S.J. Res. 58 remained tied up in committee.

Undaunted in his effort to bring his proposal to the Senate floor, Holland employed a parliamentary ruse. On March 14, 1962, S.J. Res. 29 (87th Cong.), a resolution to establish the home of Alexander Hamilton as a national monument, was reported for floor action by the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. As previously planned, the actual subject of debate turned to an amendment offered by Senator Holland stating that a citizen's right to vote could not be denied for failure to pay a poll tax. For the next 10 days, a filibuster was successful in halting further consideration

of S.J. Res. 29. Finally, after a lengthy debate on March 26, the Senate adopted a resolution to proceed with further consideration of the Resolution.

Once the motion to further consider S.J. Res. 29 was adopted, perfecting amendments that had been recommended by the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to the original resolution were agreed to en bloc.10 Immediately thereafter, the Holland Amendment was again offered in the nature of a substitute.11 The Amendment was readily adopted by the Senate on the following day, March 27.12 Also on March 27, two other amendments were offered. The first called for another amendment to the Constitution entitling the District of Columbia to elect Senators and Representatives in Congress. The other would have substituted a statute for the consitutional amendment to eliminate the poll tax.13 The Senate then passed S.J Res. 29, as amended, 77 to 16, 7 not voting. 14

In the House, the Committee on the Judiciary reported the Resolution favorably without amendments. 15 Then on August 27, 1962, the House leadership brought the resolution to the floor under a suspension of the rules. 16 Such a move meant the imposition of a gag rule limiting debate on the measure to 40 minutes. Moreover, under the rule, S.J. Res. 29 could not be amended. 17 The strict gag rule helped the Resolution gain immediate passage in the House that same day by an overwheleming vote, 294, to 86, 54 not voting and one answering "present." 18


With the approval of both Houses of Congress, the proposed Twenty-fourth Amendment was submitted to the 50 States for ratification on September 14, 1962. Thirty-eight State ratifications were required for the amendment to become part of the Constitution. On February 24, 1964, the certificate of adoption was signed by Bernard L. Boulin, Administrator of General Services, in the presence of President Lyndon B. Johnson. 19 The dates of the several State ratifications appear below:

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The_amendment was rejected by Mississippi on December 20, 1962. The remainder of the States took no action on the measure. The Twenty-fourth Amendment appears officially as 76 Stat. 1259 and 25 Fed. Reg. 1717.


1. House Report No. 1821, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962.

2. U.S. Reports, Butler v. Thompson, 1951, Washington, 95: 694.

3. U.S. Reports, Breedlove v. Suttles, 1937, Washington, 302: 277. 4. House Report No. 1821, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962.

5. Congressional Record, 84th Congress, 1st Session, 1955, 101, Pt. 1: 176.

6. For a complete history of these bills and other legislation in relation to poll taxes, see: "Abolition of Poll Tax in Federal Elections", hearing before Subcommittee No. 5 of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 12 March, 1962, 29-47.

7. Congressional Record, 87th Congress, 1st Session, 1961, 107, Pt. 3: 2766. 8. Ibid., 9232.

9. Ibid., 2nd Session, 4150.

10. Ibid., 5042.

11. Ibid., 5042-5043.

12. Ibid., 5104.

13. Ibid., 5088-5102.

14. Ibid., 5105.

15. House Report No. 1821, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962.

16. Congressional Record, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962, 108, Pt. 13: 1765417670.

17. House Report No. 1821, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962.

18. Congressional Record, 87th Congress, 2nd Session, 1962, 108, Pt. 13: 1765417670.

19. Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, The Constitution of the United States, (Richmond, 1965), 41.

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