Letter to the Editor: Getting the history of the Voting Rights Act right

Gary May’s diatribe against Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia displayed the historical ignorance he inveighed against [“Scalia vs. the Voting Rights Act,” Sunday Opinion, April 28]. Mr. May claimed that Mr. Scalia “is woefully ignorant” about the Voting Rights Act because the justice views it as a “racial entitlement,” even though “the Voting Rights Act also led to the abolition of the poll tax” that burdened poor whites as well as blacks.

In reality, the Voting Rights Act had little impact on the poll tax. The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, banned the tax in federal elections, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections struck down all poll taxes as unconstitutional in March 1966.


Mr. May wrongly credited the Voting Rights Act with the fact that, two months after the court’s ruling, poor whites as well as blacks could vote freely.