@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Literacy test amendment on its way?

Posted May 13, 2013
Updated May 14, 2013

— House lawmakers have given unanimous approval to ask voters to amend the North Carolina constitution in 2014 to remove a relic of the state's racially divided past.

Article VI, Section 4 of the constitution still says, "Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language." 

Literacy tests were commonly used to turn African-American voters away from the polls, especially in rural areas, throughout the first half of the 20th century. The practice was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. 

In 1970, North Carolina lawmakers sought to remove the test from the constitution, but voters defeated the attempt.

"This is something that accidentally got into the constitution back in 1971," when the state constitution was last rewritten, said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham. 

"We don’t know how it got there, but it got there," Michaux explained. "All we're asking is that it be taken out so it won’t be a burden to us." 

The proposed amendment, House Bill 311, would go before the voters in the 2014 primary election. 

Amendments have to win three-fifths votes in each chamber. After a final House vote Tuesday, the proposal goes to the Senate.

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  • Krimson May 14, 2013

    jenjengirl89 - For whatever its worth, Spanish is a perfectly acceptable "American" language - just ask any Puerto Rican...

  • jenjengirl89 May 14, 2013

    Hey folks, many states now require ballots to be available in the Spanish language. Gotta love that.

  • ripetomatoes May 14, 2013

    "We don’t know how it got there, but it got there," Michaux explained.

    That's the problem with everything.

    Always searching for a soapbox?

  • chuckbiscuits May 14, 2013

    "I don't think the literacy test goes far enough. If you can't explain the difference between a republic and a democracy, you have no business voting. And if you can't read and write by the time you're old enough to vote, you are not mentally capable of knowing the consequences of your vote."

    The problem with that is that in ex-slave societies like North Carolina, all the government had to do is refuse to educate a segment of the population and they could thereby disenfranchise them from their Constitutional right to vote.

    There are still people alive that were either not or poorly educated by the Jim Crow regimes so you can't fairly and once again remove their right to vote when they never got a fair chance at full participation to begin with.

  • marsupial75 May 14, 2013

    So apparently you all don't believe in the right to vote? You instead have to earn it as a privilege. Hmm, doesn't seem right to me. I just hope you don't know any severely dyslexic or dysgraphic people who may be extremely smart but cannot read well--I guess they aren't good enough to vote in your eyes.

  • dwntwnboy2 May 14, 2013

    "it should be also be a requirement for any person seeking entry into the public school system"- you do realize that people go to the public school system to LEARN how to read and write don't you? If they had to pass a test to get into a school, we wouldn't have any students since those that can't read or write couldn't get IN to school so that they CAN learn to read and write.

  • pelosi-rulz May 14, 2013

    Demorats would never win an election in nc if we still used it..

    Darn

  • Billy the Kid May 14, 2013

    Illiterate people don't need to read or write to vote. They just need to know who to put the check mark next to for free stuff.

  • goldenosprey May 14, 2013

    It's pretty clear this part of the state constitution is unconstitutional in light of the US Constitution. Mind you the second amendment is the only important part to some folks.

    It's not certain a critical thinking test is unconstitutional, however. Republicans should be very afraid of such a thing passing.

  • BubbaDuke May 14, 2013

    I don't think the literacy test goes far enough. If you can't explain the difference between a republic and a democracy, you have no business voting. And if you can't read and write by the time you're old enough to vote, you are not mentally capable of knowing the consequences of your vote.

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