March 22, 2013
JFK ASKS GOVERNORS FOR ACTION ON POLL TAX AMENDMENT
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy sent telegrams to the governors of states which had failed to take action on the proposed 24th amendment to the United States Constitution 50 years ago today, March 22, 1963.*
*The states included Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia & Wisconsin.
The amendment, proposed by Congress on August 27, 1962, would prohibit the payment of poll taxes** as a condition for voting in federal elections & would provide Congress with the power of enforcement.
**Poll taxes were passed after the passage of the 15th amendment by all 11 of the former Confederate states as a means of disenfranchising African-American voters who could not afford to pay them. By 1962, only 5 states had poll taxes still on the books: Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas & Mississippi.
Joint Resolution of the Congress
Proposing the 24th Amendment
JFK’s telegram stated…
“(The)…amendment…(has) had strong bipartisan support in Congress & was adopted by overwhelming margins in both Houses.
It should be acted upon as promptly as possible.”
The President went on to reiterate his“wholehearted support” of the amendment as a means to “broaden the base of…participation in…the voting process.”
JFK’s telegram concluded with these words…
“I hope that your state legislatures will be able to take up the proposed Amendment at an early date & that it will be ratified.”***
***The 1st state to ratify had been Illinois. Tennessee became the 25th ratifying state on March 21, 1963 & South Dakota was the 38th & deciding state to ratify on January 23, 1964 when the 24th Amendment became the law of the land.
President Lyndon B. Johnson called the ratification of the amendment as a“triumph of liberty.”****
****Some states never ratified the 24th Amendment & even kept poll taxes in their legal codes despite the fact that they could not be enforced.