On Feb. 2, House Bill 44 was introduced into the North Carolina General Assembly, to repeal the literacy test from the North Carolina Constitution.
Section 4 of Article VI of the state constitution requires state voters to be able to read and write any part of the constitution in English, although this is not currently enforced after the passage of federal civil rights legislation.
Rep. Terry Brown (D-Mecklenberg), a primary sponsor of the bill, said this is not the first time that this legislation has been introduced. In 1969, this same proposed amendment failed.
“I think that the North Carolina that we’re living in today, here in 2023, is worlds different than the North Carolina in 1969, when Henry Frye first introduced this piece of legislation,” he said.
The aim is for this bill to be submitted for North Carolina residents to vote on during the statewide general election on Nov. 5, 2024. Citizens can vote for or against this legislation to decide whether or not the test will be repealed.
The bill has bipartisan support, with primary sponsors Brown and Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) supporting the bill as Democrats and Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry, Wilkes) supporting the bill as Republicans.
“We do want to make sure that we’re showing the people of North Carolina now, regardless of what may have happened in the past, this is not what North Carolina stands for now,” Brown said.
Bob Phillips, the executive director for Common Cause North Carolina, emphasized that this bill’s wording is crucial.
“What’s always important in terms of a referendum passing or failing is making sure that the language is clear about what it is and what we’re asking voters to actually vote for or against,” he said.