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North Carolina Lawmakers Hope To Repeal Voter Literacy Test

Early voters line up to cast ballots in the University City area.
Erin Keever
Early voters line up to cast ballots in the University City area during the 2020 general election.

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s constitution still includes an unenforceable relic of the Jim Crow era — a voter literacy test. Some state lawmakers are trying, again, to do away with it.

A House judiciary committee scheduled debate for Tuesday on a bipartisan measure that would allow voters to decide next year whether to eliminate that section of the constitution.

The section says anyone attempting to register to vote must “be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.”

This requirement was added to the constitution in 1900 and used to keep many Black citizens from casting ballots.

The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 made literacy tests and similar barriers to voting unlawful nationwide. But in 1970, North Carolina voters weren't willing to give up the language — they defeated an amendment to remove the section. House members have pushed again for its repeal in recent years.

Three-fifths of the House and the Senate members must agree to such a referendum.

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