May 1, 2013

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.

Hans Bader, Washington

The writer is a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is neither “oblivious to our nation’s recent history” nor “woefully ignorant of the legislative history” of the Voting Rights Act, as claimed by Gary May. Mr. Scalia just thinks that the federal oversight provision is outdated and no longer necessary. Does Mr. May truly believe that, if the oversight provision were removed, these states would return to literacy tests and poll taxes?  

Larry Morris, Severna Park