poll tax

/pohl/
a capitation tax, the payment of which is sometimes a prerequisite to exercise the right of suffrage. Also called head tax.
[1685-95]

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Tax of a uniform amount levied on each individual.

The most famous British poll tax was the one levied in 1380, a main cause of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt. In the U.S., poll taxes were used as a voting prerequisite in the southern states; when payment was made a prerequisite to voting, impoverished blacks (and often poor whites) were effectively denied the vote. In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not levy a poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in state and local elections.

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      tax of a uniform amount levied on each individual, or “head.”

      Of the poll taxes in English history, the most famous was the one levied in 1380, a main cause of the peasant's revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler. In the United States, most discussion of the poll tax centred on its use as a voting (election) prerequisite in the Southern states. The origin of the tax is associated with the agrarian unrest of the 1880s and 1890s, which culminated in the rise of the Populist (Populist Movement) Party in the West and the South. The Populists, a low-income farmers' party, gave the Democrats in these areas the only serious competition that they had experienced since the end of Reconstruction. The intensity of competition led both parties to bring blacks back into politics and to compete for their vote. Once the Populists had been defeated, the Democrats amended their state constitutions or drafted new ones to include various disfranchising devices. When payment of the poll tax was made a prerequisite to voting, impoverished blacks and often poor whites, unable to afford the tax, were denied the right to vote.

      Poll taxes of varying stipulations lingered in Southern states into the 20th century. Some states abolished the tax in the years after World War I, while others retained it. Its use was declared unconstitutional in federal elections by the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, effective in 1964. In 1966 the Supreme Court, going beyond the Twenty-fourth Amendment, ruled that under the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, states could not levy a poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in state and local elections.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • poll tax — / pōl / n: a tax of a fixed amount per person levied on adults Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. poll tax …   Law dictionary

  • Poll tax — Poll Poll, n. [Akin to LG. polle the head, the crest of a bird, the top of a tree, OD. pol, polle, Dan. puld the crown of a hat.] 1. The head; the back part of the head. All flaxen was his poll. Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. A number or aggregate of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • poll-tax — pollˈ money or pollˈ tax noun A tax of so much a head, ie on each person alike • • • Main Entry: ↑poll …   Useful english dictionary

  • poll tax — ➔ tax1 …   Financial and business terms

  • poll tax — n [Date: 1600 1700; Origin: poll head ; POLL1] a tax of a particular amount that is collected from every citizen of a country …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • poll-tax|er — «POHL TAK suhr», noun. U.S. Informal. person supporting the levy of a poll tax …   Useful english dictionary

  • poll tax — n. a tax per head, levied on individuals rather than on property: such a tax as a prerequisite for voting is unconstitutional in the U.S …   English World dictionary

  • poll tax — poll ,tax noun count an amount of money collected as a tax from every adult citizen of a particular country …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • poll tax — poll′ tax n. gov a capitation tax, sometimes levied as a prerequisite for voting • Etymology: 1685–95 …   From formal English to slang

  • poll tax — ► NOUN ▪ a tax levied on every adult, without reference to their income or resources …   English terms dictionary

  • Poll-tax — (engl., spr. pōl täcks, »Kopfsteuer«), in England Bezeichnung des zum Behuf der Parlamentswahlen zusammengestellten Wahlregisters und des Wahlaktes selbst …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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