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NJWIT Members Discuss Louisiana Voting prior to 1965

October 5, 2016

If you were in Louisiana in 1965 and wanted to vote, you would have had to take a literacy test.  Here are a few of the questions: “In the space below, write the word “Noise” backwards and place a dot over what would be its second letter should it have been written forward.”    Or “Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sentence, and circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence.” 
 
NJWIT members Marilyn Shuffler, Allyson Powers-Johnson, Judy Glick, Lanie Gastman, Cynthia Crosson, met at Dale Swisher’s house for their October meeting. The theme was civics, and Dale gave the group the Louisiana voters’ registration test. Consisting of 30 questions, an applicant had 10 minutes to complete the test, or 20 seconds a question. One mistake and the person failed and could not register to vote. It was shocking to read this test (Harvard students were given the test recently and did not pass.).  The Civil Rights Act of 1965 eliminated these tests and poll taxes.
 
The group also discussed the Alabama 1965 literacy test consisting of 68 questions from a Civics textbook.  Sample question: “Does enumeration affect the income tax levied on citizens in various states?”  And “Who passes laws dealing with piracy?”  None of us would have been able to vote in Louisiana or Alabama.
 
Dale prepared a few notes explaining the origination of the electoral college (the founding fathers were afraid to let the general population vote) and the composition of the 538 electors (435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 3 electors in the District of Columbia).  A presidential candidate must get at least 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency. The number of Representatives remains at 435 no matter the change in population, as that is the number of desks that fit in the House building. (May not be true but is a good story.)

A little present day politics was in the mix, with some discussion about the VP debate and the need to change campaign laws to keep presidential campaigns to about 6 weeks, as other countries do. 

Dale’s son Greg donated pocket Constitutions to all.  We learned a little bit with great company, and had fun at the same time. Don’t forget to vote!!!