Page 14


The Texas Observer NOV. 1, 1963 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c The Politics of Poll Tax Repeal Texas politics now is the politics of poll tax repeal. Local committees laden with distinguished and respectable names are being announced all over the state to work for repeal. Opposition is appearing on a last-minute basis. The Belden Poll showed 51% support for repeal against 43% opposed, with the outcome’ Nov. 9 depending on turnout. Persons close to the repeal campaign have become more optimistic recently than they were but they are still “running scared.” The leading Texas officeholders are all on record for repeal, except Lt. Gov. Preston Smith, who has not committed himself. Vice President Johnson says the poll tax is “the shame of Texas.” Senator Ralph Yarborough says, “The poll tax should go the way of the ducking stool and the whipping post.” Sen. John Tower and Cong. Ed Foreman, Odessa, both Republicans, support Texas repeal of the poll tax Nov. 9, conditioned only by enactment of a workable voter registration system \(they said at the Corpus Christi GOP conclave they had not evaluated the one that has been passed and would take effect in the event of reBruce Alger, Dallas, is also for repeal Nov. 9. Gov . John Connally warns of “chaos” two ballots, two poll lists, two voting placesif Texans don’t vote for repeal Nov. 9. And the governor, who warned of bloc voting as an issue that menaces repeal, has since said that anyone who doubts that he is for repeal just doesn’t understand wordshe is for repeal. So are many other congressmen, and senators and representatives in the legislature, who have stepped forward so to say. The question of working for repeal is quite another thing. The League of Women Voters, whose special project repeal has been, has taken an active, forward role in the formation of the local committees for repeal. The state Republican Party is not doing anything. Connally wrote the members of the State Democratic Executive Committee and asked them to set up local committees to work for repeal, even though the League may have set them up locally, too. \(The danger is not too much work for sity of the response to these letters has varied to some extent with the politics of the recipients. Connally held two press conferences last week without bringing up the poll tax \(reif he spoke of the poll tax in his speech in Amarillo Oct. 24, reporters did not note the fact. Lt. Gov. Smith says the voters may reject repeal because of Crystal City. Vice President Johnson has spoken out for repeal, but has not stumped for it, as some hoped he would. Sen. Yarborough had as his guest over his radio program, heard on 130 Texas stations, Cong. Jack Brooks, Beaumont. They had this exchange: Brooks: “. . . the Democratic members of the House are proud of our senior senator for a good many reasons. But one of the most important is your co-authorship of the proposed amendment [to] abolish the poll tax requirement to vote for all federal officials. . . .” Yarborough : [If Texas does not abolish its poll tax but the federal repealer passes,] “The.voter in Texas would need a Philadelphia lawyer to figure out where he would have to go to vote and what he would have to vote on when he got there. . . .” Brooks: “I think it’s more logical in a democracy to tax a person for not voting than to levy a tax on him so he can qualify to exercise his free choice in an election.” Yarborough: “We levy taxes here to keep a man from voting. I am absolutely opposed to the poll tax. It is inconsistent in a democracy. I am for abolishing the poll tax Nov. 9.” Don Yarboroughwhom the Houston Chronicle declares is certain to oppose Connally next yearhas been orating all over the state for repeal: he says Nov. 9 is the most important election in 100 years. The Democratic Coalitionlabor, liberals, Negroes, mexicanos are now working all-out for repeal. Their basic plan is the use of block workers, each one responsible for 20 voters, to turn out voters for repeal among Negro and Latin-American voters in 15 selected urban areas. More than 800 such workers have been signed up in Dallas, compared to just 150 or so in Corpus Christi; the goal one hears mentioned statewide exceeds10,000. These workers will be called on throughout next year for the various political campaigns; it is the thought of the liberals that if these workers win repeal Nov. 9 they can keep on going through the primaries and November, 1964. WORKERS FOR REPEAL have been coping with talked-around reasons for retaining the tax, trying to squelch these reasons before they become runaways. For instance, it was heard that the argument was gaining ground that repeal would hurt public school financing. Therefore, D. Richard Bowles of Austin, former president of the Texas State Teachers’ Assn., issued a statement that it would notthat under the law, “anything a school district lacks will be automatically made up from the minimum foundation fund,” and that in any case “the poll tax proVides about threetenths of one percent of the state aid to the local schools.” Reaction among Anglo-Texan voters against the civil rights movement has led to some opposition to repeal. To try to cope with this, specifically in rural East Texas, Bill McIntyre, city commissioner of Navasota and a businessman, as well as the giver of a party during Ralph Yarborough’s weekend in Austin attended by many supporters of Don Yarborough for governor, has been telephoning around East Texas arguing for repeal. In a news release, he was announced as the chairman of the “Rural Texans for Poll Tax Repeal Committee.” An example of the local melodrama that is being played out on the issue comes from Fort Worth. Probate Judge A. L. Crouch, a staunch Democrat, decided to press his fellow officials on the question. Accompanied by members of PASO and the unions, he called on a group of officials to speak up, then and there, for or against repeal, and sign or fail to sign a petition for repeal. The sheriff, district attorney, four district judges, a county commissioner, the mayor pro-tern, two state representatives, the tax assessor-collector and county treasurer, the county Democratic chairman, and the state Democratic committeeman and