Republicans across the country are quickly jumping on the call to remove Confederate icons and other symbols of the Jim Crow era from public spaces. It’s happening in South Carolina, Alabama, and even here in Virginia.
But at the same time, some in the Republican Party’s leadership, also here in Virginia, are seriously considering erecting a poll tax on delegates if they decide to nominate our presidential candidate via convention.
That’s right folks – 10 days after the shootings in Charleston, and 5 days after Governor McAuliffe stripped the Confederate flag off of Virginia license plates, RPV’s State Central Committee is actually going to discuss whether to levy a poll tax.
A poll tax. Really.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
As noted across Virginia commentary circles, one of the primary reasons RPV is even considering the hare-brained idea of holding a presidential nominating convention is fundraising. One of the proposals on the table is to levy mandatory convention fees on all participants, in the $35 dollar range.
The last time RPV went the mandatory fee route, back in 1994, the fee was struck down by the United States Supreme Court on grounds that the party had violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that Section 5 has been struck down, apparently some on State Central think it’s a good idea to try it again. The Supreme Court didn’t even have to get to the Constitutional violation, because RPV didn’t follow existing federal law to begin with.
The 24th Amendment is pretty clear – nobody can be barred from participating in any nominating process because they’ve failed to pay a poll tax.
The ACLU sent a letter to RPV Chairman John Whitbeck yesterday that outlined the legal arguments against the blatantly illegal levy of a poll tax. You can read the letter below. Even if you question the source, you can’t question that legal analysis. Claire Gastanaga is a damn good lawyer.
While the rest of the country is pulling down symbols of racial segregation and Jim Crow, RPV’s State Central Committee is seriously contemplating reestablishing one of the more egregious of the methods Jim Crow era Democrats used to bar blacks from participating in politics.
We don’t need a poll tax. We don’t need a convention. Enough throwbacks to the era of Harry Byrd and Massive Resistance. We should be tearing down his statue not reviving his statutes.
Any State Central Committee member who votes in favor of mandatory convention fees should be challenged next year. There is absolutely no reason for us to go this route, no matter how much one favors conventions and no matter how bad RPV’s fundraising numbers are. I would rather the party go bankrupt than violate the Constitution like this. We are better than this.