A group of state lawmakers in North Carolina is undertaking a new effort to eliminate a racist relic of the Jim Crow era that remains enshrined in the state constitution.
Literacy tests were popular mechanisms for disenfranchising African American voters for decades during the middle of the 20th century, until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally prohibited the practice. But the national legislation didn't do anything to officially remove offending voting measures from the state books. Article VI, Section 4 of North Carolina's constitution still reads, "Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language."
The Institute for Southern Studies reported this week that there was a new push underway to remove the language from the document:
Earlier this month, two African-American Democrats, Reps. Kelly Alexander of Charlotte and Mickey Michaux of Durham, joined with two white Republicans, Reps. Charles Jeter of Huntersville and Harry Warren of Salisbury, to introduce House Bill 311, which would put before voters an amendment to eliminate [the section].
The amendment would appear on the ballot during the statewide general election in November 2014, according to the bill.
A similar effort failed in 1970, after making it to the ballot only to be rejected by voters, the Institute for Southern Studies reports.
While the Voting Rights Act technically prohibits a literacy test from being put into practice today, the push comes just a month after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case against the anti-racial discrimination legislation. Section 201, which prohibits states from implementing tests for voting, was not at issue, but conservative Justice Antonin Scalia did suggest that the continuation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal preclearance of voting system changes in places with a history of racial discrimination in elections, represented the "perpetuation of racial entitlement."
North Carolina isn't the only state that has shown itself to be a little late on catching up with the times. In February, lawmakers in Mississippi finally ratified 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned slavery in 1865. You know what they say: Better 148 years late than never.