Paid-For ID's and Poll Taxes.

In case you don’t know, the 24th Amendment to the US constitution forbids poll taxes. In other words, the federal government and states cannot make you pay to vote.

Then more recently in Michigan where I live, I heard a bill in the Michigan legislature is going to allow people to register to vote online. Only stipulation is you have to have a driver’s license or state ID.

Now I don’t know if this requirement applies to other forms of voting in Michigan. But I have heard anecdotal stories about other states. In fact there was this one story a military man tried to vote in one state using his military ID. And they said No.

Now drivers licenses and state ID’s aren’t free. They both cost money. My question then, is do they violate the twenty-fourth amendment? Certainly at least in spirit?

Mind you, am not trying to ride my moral high horse. I’m just wondering.

Thank you in advance for your kindly and civil replies:).


My recollection is that poll taxes in the late 1800’s were refuted as such because the taxes were unaffordable by disenfranchised voters, most of whom were African Americans.

The cost of an ID may be an inconvenience, but hardly unaffordable. If one is going to make that leap, then the cost of postage for mailing in your ballot, could be considered a poll tax.

I’m a little confused by the premise. Why do you think this is what “poll tax” means?

ETA: never mind, I just read up on the U.S. history of implementation of poll taxes. Got it.

The bolded part is the out here. So long as this is considered an option, only provided for the convenience factor, it probably doesn’t count as a poll tax.

Now, if they were to eliminate all other means to register, then you might have something.

Here in Minnesota, vote-by-mail ballots come with a postage-paid return envelope.

Perhaps one of the reasons Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the whole country.

Don’t all states that have voter id laws also provide id cards for no cost or if there is a cost waive the fee is the person asks?

I don’t know of any that do not.

This got me curious, but I’m unable to find any data.

How much were the poll taxes in today’s currency? I can’t find any reference to how much they were at all.

Are you allowed to say first hit on Google outside of GQ?

I found different figures for the equivalent of the poll tax in modern dollars.

Using Texas as an example, a poll tax of $1.50 was enacted in 1902. According to this calculator, $1.50 in 1902 dollars is the equivalent of $43.98 in 2018 dollars. Mississippi’s poll tax of $2.00 was enacted in 1890. Using the same calculator that would be the equivalent of $55.42 in 2018 dollars. These are back-breaking sums but they’re not trivial either.

That’s comparing the value of the dollars. We can also make an estimate based on income levels. This paper describes farm worker earnings in the early twentieth century. In 1909, the average hired farm worker made $23.77 a month. The same figure for 1920 was $59.88, for 1929 $44.52, for 1933 $21.10, and for 1938 $30.61. That means a poll tax of $1.50 would represent the equivalent of somewhere between 2.5% to 7.1% of a month’s wages. The median monthly wages for an American worker in 2017 is $3,714. The percentages I just calculated would represent an amount between $92.85 and $263.69.

I don’t know about all states, but we require ID to vote in New Hampshire and offer “a free nondriver’s picture identification card for voting purposes” according to write ups of the law.

Dammit, I had links to cites in that post. What happened to them?

Same thing that apparently happened to my post, I guess. I had to rewrite it from scratch.

Seems that Arkansas has a free ID, but it sure seems to be deliberately obscured from the public. You don’t get it at a special place or even the DMV where you can get a paid ID. Nope, you go to your county clerk. Apparently she has a camera on hand and can give you an ID, or something.

However, the law also allows a signed affidavit that one is a registered voter to count as ID–even if they try to lie about that.

Michigan does allow a voter without ID (whether they just forgot it or that don’t have one at all) to vote after signing an affidavit. And Michigan seems to only offer a free ID to those who are blind or age 65+.

Since it is possible to vote without an ID I doubt the cost of an ID for those who use an ID and don’t sign the affidavit would be considered a poll tax.

I’m struggling to understand how any of these requirements are enforced for mail-in / absentee voting? Any ideas about this?

If you are given the *choice *of an alternate ID method that involves no cost, I would believe it would clear the poll tax hurdle. You may try to argue on the basis of “undue burden” depending on how much of a hassle it is.

It has been said often before, if USAers of left, right, and middle did not suffer from a congenital allergy to the issuance of a universal official ID document, this debate would be moot(*). Instead in many US states it is something of a schlep and often a PITA to go get yourself some compliant ID, and the individual states have wide variations on what is valid ID to use for particular purposes and what in turn is valid documentation to get it issued. Considering that when registering you should have evidenced identity and citizenship, at voting time it should only be a matter of showing that yes, the person with this name is the person with this face, give her the ballot paper. (I know, this creates a problem with same-day registration. Maybe that is something to be reevaluated itself.)

(*Then again as with the birth certificates it would probably get put in a bottom drawer and forgotten in a move, and it would be even more of an holy challenge to replace as SSA cards are now)

Disclosure: in my home jurisdiction every municipality, or submunicipal election precinct of a certain population, has a registration office, where you can walk in, present your evidence of citizenship & residence, register to vote and right away you are issued free of charge a VoterID card – by the elections office, not by the DMV who like in many other states exist to give citizens a vision of Purgatory.

Dunno. But I did somehow miss that.

OTOH, if I hadn’t asked we wouldn’t have gotten Little Nemo’s excellent analysis of the question.

Nitpick: Contrary to popular belief, a “poll tax” is not a tax that you pay at the polls. It is a head tax that governments (used to?) charge per person, the same amount, for simply existing. Those laws are still enforceable.

In the past, though, states would pass laws saying that failure to pay this tax would mean that a person was ineligible to vote. The 24th Amendment banned those laws, but poll taxes could still be collected.

In addition to the free IDs that other posters have referenced, I disagree that the government must provide an absolutely cost-free method of voting or else the bus fare to get to the polling place would be prohibited, or the cost of the stamp to mail it out.

I don’t see how the government requiring even a paid for ID would be unconstitutional as it is not even a “tax” let alone a “poll tax.”

and Blacks probably made less than that

The very last part is irrelevant. The 24th Amendment applies to a “poll tax or other tax.”