Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Magazine Calls for End to Poll Tax, 1937

“The Right to Vote” editorial published in January 1937 issue of The Southern Planter

A Virginia farmer dropped by our office just before the November election and said, “My wife and I would like to vote this fall, but money has been scarce with us for the past few years and we didn’t pay our poll-tax. It would take $4.50 each—a total of $9—to square us up and that will buy us each a pair of shoes, which we both need badly. Even if we paid the tax now, we couldn’t vote anyway. To vote in fall, the poll-tax must be paid in spring.”

We can think of no more noble objective for which the women’s clubs, the Grange, the Virginia State Farm Bureau and other groups of rural people could work than to make it possible for a larger percentage of Virginia farmers and their wives to enjoy the right to vote. This is election year in the state and whether agriculture will have adequate representation in the General Assembly will depend upon the number of farmers who vote in the coming election.

The right to vote is the basis of citizenship. When the right to vote is denied a large percentage of the people of a state, the democratic principles upon which our form of government is founded are threatened. Boss rule through the use of the machinery of government for political purposes becomes rampant, and the interests of the masses are sacrificed for special interest.

The following table shows the percentage of the population voting in the last presidential election in the several states served by The Southern Planter.

Possible Voting Population, 1930 Census
Votes Cast
Percentage Voting
West Virginia
North Carolina

Virginia must devise some means to extend the franchise to a larger percentage of the population, if we hope to have a “government by the people.”

We believe that the $1.50 poll-tax required annually for all voters in Virginia must be paid for three years back--$4.50—and six months before the election is keeping a large number of our citizens away from the polls. The machine politicians will keep the poll-tax paid for those who will vote them back into power.

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