Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Candidates and the Twenty-Fourth Amendment

This is the seventeenth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Twenty-Fourth Amendment was ratified in 1964. It's pretty sad that it took almost 200 years to get this amendment passed. I consider it one of the more important post-Bill-of-Rights ones.

So, what's the Twenty-Fourth Amendment? Here's the text:

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.

Simple. No poll taxes in federal elections or primaries. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that all poll taxes were a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. So, perhaps that makes the 24th Amendment moot.

There's currently a movement (which I support) to require presentation of some sort of state or federal ID to be allowed to vote. Indiana has such a law, and it was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. The Court did not look at this law with respect to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, and there are many sites out there that claim that was a mistake. My position has always been that there are no good, ethical reasons to oppose a Voter ID law. However, it's not too much of a stretch in my opinion to call such a law a poll tax (ID's are provided free of charge in Indiana if needed, but it does take time and effort to do so), and I wonder why the Supreme Court did not at least address the issue from this perspective.

So, how do we judge this? Is a Voter ID requirement a kind of poll tax or not? This decision will definitely affect the grades given here. The Supreme Court didn't even mention the Twenty-Fourth in any of their writings in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that I can see. Does this mean they felt it quite obviously didn't apply and wasn't worth mentioning? I would've thought if that were the view, they should've at least added a comment to such. So, I'm left to wonder what the absence of any discussion of the 24th in the decision means.

My decision? I have decided to straddle the fence. I will side with the Supreme Court that it is not a poll tax, but I will look at the candidates and Voter ID in a future post.

I guess I'm siding with the Court. I'd know for certain if they'd bothered to give their opinion on the subject.

If we exclude Voter ID from this discussion there's no reason to believe from their writings or speeches that either Obama or McCain support any kind of poll tax in federal elections.

Grades:

Obama: B

McCain: B

Twenty-Fourth Amendment: No Advantage

Results so far:

Obama McCain
First Amendment* F
D-
Second Amendment D- C-
Third Amendment B B
Fourth Amendment D+ D+
Fifth Amendment D+ B-
Sixth Amendment B B
Seventh Amendment C C
Eighth Amendment C B
Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
Fifteenth Amendment B B
Nineteenth Amendment B B
Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B

* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.

UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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