Raleigh, N.C. — 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.