Bless Your Heart Democratic Party. I am a centrist Republican and I think Donald Trump is a terrible person however...

Repealing literacy test would change nothing but it is still a good idea


Andy Jackson


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

North Carolina has a literacy test for voting enshrined in its constitution. The General Assembly should put a constitutional amendment to repeal it on the ballot as soon as possible.

The language of Article VI, Section 4 of the NC Constitution is simple: "Every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language." According to the US Supreme Court, that section is nondiscriminatory on race on its face.

However, the application of that provision was anything but nondiscriminatory. For example, a white applicant might be asked to read a relatively simple section like Article VI, Section 4 (if he or she were asked to read anything), while a black applicant might be required to read and demonstrate understanding of some of the longer and more complex sections of the document.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 functionally banned the use of literacy tests nationwide, a ban that was upheld by the US Supreme Court. The General Assembly responded by proposing an amendment to the N.C. Constitution to bring it formally in line with federal law by removing the literacy test. However, voters rejected that amendment in a statewide referendum in 1970 by a vote of 279,132 to 355,347. It has remained as an unenforceable part of the state constitution ever since.

There have been several attempts to try to repeal the literacy test since then, although there is some fear that voters might reject the amendment again:

"There's a worry about what might happen with that" if it were defeated again, said [House Speaker Tim] Moore, R-Cleveland, adding that he has no idea how voters might respond to another ballot question on the issue. "I would hope that amendment would pass overwhelmingly. It's certainly something I would support."

Members of the House are trying again this session. House Bill 314, sponsored by Kelly M. Alexander Jr., D-Mecklenburg, Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, Michael Speciale, R-Craven, and Garland E. Pierce, D-Hoke, is essentially a copy of a bill that unanimously passed the state House in the last session. That bill was not taken up by NC Senate before that session ended.

The only downside to H314 in my eyes is that it does not give voters the opportunity to repeal the literacy test until the general election on November 3, 2020. I would prefer that the amendment be included on the ballot for the March 3, 2020 primary. A March vote would get the literacy test out of our state constitution that much sooner. Setting the amendment vote on a primary date would also lessen its potential use as a partisan bludgeon. Such partisan grandstanding by politicians would likely have the perverse effect of driving down support for the amendment.

While there are legitimate debates about various election laws in North Carolina, there is no serious disagreement about the literacy test. It is a barnacle on North Carolina's ship of state that should be scraped off as soon as possible.

Andy Jackson is the elections policy fellow at the Civitas Institute.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

September 21, 2019

At almost the same moment our state was boasting of a $900 million cash surplus, one important sector of state government was encountering serious shortfalls. Lawmakers should address the funding problems with the N.C. Department of Transportation before considering refunds to taxpayers or other…

Tom Campbell.jpg

September 05, 2019

The year was 1990. While serving as pastor of a church in Greensboro, I became involved in a ministry to the most vulnerable.

At the time, North Carolina was at the top of the list when it came to infant mortality. Politicians who ran a strong anti-abortion campaign in the name of…


August 25, 2019

The travel and tourism industry is one of the most mid-understood industries across our nation despite its huge contribution to the national economy.

The United States Travel Association reported that $1.1 trillion was spent by travelers to the U.S. in 2018, resulting in a $2.5 trillion output…


August 24, 2019

As North Carolina teachers start to return to classrooms, they will undoubtedly have a lot on their minds to prepare for a new academic year. Fortunately, they will no longer have to worry about the status of their in-network health care coverage for 2020 under the State Health Plan.

Thanks to the…


August 24, 2019

If you come to the end of the year and you’ve got surplus money in the bank what do you do? This seldom happens in most homes, but would you spend it? Save it? Or, with a government, would you return some of it to the people who sent it? That’s the option Senate President Pro Tem Phil…

August 21, 2019

For many parents, August is a month of both pride and tears. Pride because their teenager is taking that big educational step and tears because for many it's the beginning of an empty nest. Yet, there's a going-away-to-college question that far too few parents ask or even contemplate: What will my…

Walter Williams

August 18, 2019

I have had the distinct honor and privilege of leading the Greenville VA Health Care Center as the Administrator and Associate Administrator since November 2016.

Over the past two and a half years, I have enjoyed working all of the veterans and staff members as we grew together, overcame obstacles,…


July 23, 2019

Since being sworn in January, I have been working hard to help the people I represent in Lenoir and Pitt counties — and the biggest opportunity to do this has been through the state budget. I’ve talked with elected officials, educators, administrators, nonprofits, business owners,…


July 12, 2019

Over the past three years, I have had the good fortune to work on a project that has the potential to transform the farming landscape in eastern North Carolina, one that involves harnessing gas produced from hog waste.

As CEO and founder of OptimaBio, our work with Smithfield Foods to capture…


July 01, 2019

The American system of checks and balances government does not work the way most people think it does or the way the Founding Fathers said it would.

The president serves at the pleasure of Congress, just as the prime minister of the UK serves at the pleasure of Parliament, which means that the…

11 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 2
        Next Page»   Last Page»