RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The push to remove an illegal voting literacy test from the North Carolina Constitution is once again up for debate in the General Assembly.
Some lawmakers have been trying for decades to get the illegal provision axed from the state constitution. In 1970, lawmakers passed an amendment to remove the literacy test in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned literacy tests blocking people from voting.
However, when that approved amendment went to the ballot, North Carolina voters did not ratify it. Since then, efforts to bring a new amendment on literacy tests to a vote have periodically come and gone.
The latest effort is House Bill 44.
If it passes, it would put the following statement on ballots in North Carolina for the Nov. 5, 2024 election (voters would be asked to vote "for" or "against"):
"Constitutional amendment to repeal the requirement that every person presenting himself for registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language."
Literacy tests were widely used in the South after the Reconstruction Era. The tests were just one tool white leaders used to keep Black citizens from voting. Ending literacy tests was a main part of the landmark civil rights legislation known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
What's included in the Voting Rights Act?
This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. According to US National Archives, by the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new Black voters had been registered, one-third by federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only four out of 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982.