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State ratifies the 24th Amendment | South Dakota History

Election Day, Main Street, Murdo SD, Jones County
South Dakota Digital Archives
South Dakota State Historical Society
Murdo, South Dakota Henry Reed's flag collection on display. Miller photo 9/24/1936

South Dakota became the 38th state to ratify the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution on January 23rd, 1964. The amendment abolished poll taxes. South Dakota’s approval meant that three-quarters of the state legislatures or state conventions had approved the measure and it became part of the US Constitution.

The 24th amendment was seen to be important to the Civil Rights movement. Its ratification ended mandatory poll taxes that, often, had the most significant impact on and prevented many African Americans from voting. Poll taxes and other local laws regarding voting rights effectively prevented African Americans from having any sort of political power, especially in the South.

Poll taxes, or a tax to have the right to vote, sometimes were cumulative. In some states, they required the voter to pay taxes, not just from that year, but also previous years even if they had not voted.

The 24th amendment:

In Section 1 – says “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. They 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.”

And Section 2 – says “Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Although the 15th amendment protected the rights of citizens to vote in elections, this did not stop other measures- such as poll taxes.

The 38-state threshold to approve an amendment was reached even though several Southern states rejected it. South Dakota was the 38th state to ratify the amendment and it happened on January 23rd, 1964. The debate over various proposals surrounding the right to vote continues to this day.

Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Professor of History at Presentation College.