Strange things show up in the footnotes of federal court rulings. Consider this one in a ruling by a federal judge in Corpus Christi, Tex., that the state’s voter photo ID law is unconstitutional: “The Texas Legislature did not vote to ratify the 24th Amendment’s abolition of the poll tax until the 2009 legislative session,” and “the process has not been completed and the measure last went to the Secretary of State.” That came up early in an excoriating 147-page ruling from United States District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that the state’s voter photo ID law, also known as Senate Bill 14, “creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.” Civil and voting rights history echoes throughout the ruling. The first footnote cites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The poll tax prohibition, amended into the Constitution in 1964, shows up a few pages later in a discussion of the state’s history of blocking access to elections.
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The court did not mention that the state’s ratification of the 24th Amendment was ceremonial. The amendment was initially ratified by 38 states, not including Texas. In the years since, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Texas have added their names to the roster.
Mississippi rejected the amendment, and seven other states — most in the South — have never ratified it.
The Texas resolution, passed by both houses in 2009 without any objections, said in part: “The Legislature of the State of Texas, as a symbolic gesture, hereby post-ratifies Amendment XXIV to the Constitution of the United States.”