Letters to the Editor

Making it difficult to vote nothing new

For the past few months, there has been much discussion about ways to increase the requirements for American citizens to vote. I believe my story is relevant to that conversation.

When I became eligible to vote in 1957 (the voting age was then 21), I lived in Virginia. The office of the Registrar of Voters was only open a few days a month. It was necessary to make an appointment. I arrived at 4 p.m. one afternoon. A black man about my age was writing at a table in the anteroom. "I hope you can write fast," he said. "I have been working on this test for two hours, and she closes at five."

"What test?" I asked.

He handed me an instruction sheet, which read: "On the paper provided, write at least one full page in response to each of these four questions." I don't remember the exact wording of each, but one asked for a specific quote from the Declaration of Independence with a discussion of its meaning. Another posed a similar question requiring a specific quote from the Constitution. The third asked for the names of our senators and congressman and the committees on which they served.

I do remember the final question because I knew I could not answer it. "Give the exact names and dates of three major Supreme Court decisions, the arguments on both sides and the final vote."

When I was called in, I immediately apologized saying that I had not known about the test and would have to go home to study. "Oh, honey," the registrar said, "that's just for colored people. All I need from you is your name, address and signature."

Cecile D. Banner

Port Royal