Oregon Secretary of State

Literacy Test as Described in 1930 Oregon Code

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Cartoon of white man writing misspelled words on a wall and a black man watching him from his perch on a stack of wood.
Oregon law was inspired by longstanding Jim Crow Era efforts in the South to exclude African Americans from voting. Here, an 1879 Harper's Weekly editorial cartoon criticizes the use of literacy tests. It shows "Mr. Solid South" writing on a wall: "Eddikashun qualifukashun. The Blak man orter be eddikated afore he kin vote with us Wites, signed Mr. Solid South." (Courtesy of Library of Congress) Enlarge Image
​​​​"Whenever a county clerk, deputy county clerk or judge of the election board shall have reasonable cause to suspect that any applicant to register or vote is unable to read and write the English language, or if the right of such applicant to vote shall be challenged by an elector upon such grounds, then such applicant shall not be permitted to register or vote at any state, county, town, or district election unless he shall be able, except for physical disability, to read and write the English language in the manner hereinafter provided.

There shall be provided in every voting precinct and place for registration of voters in this state 100 extracts of approximately fifty words each from the constitution of this state, which extracts shall be selected by the secretary of state and caused by him to be printed in English, on uniform pasteboard slips, in leaded pica type, and distributed to the various county clerks, by whom a sufficient number of said slips shall be furnished to each judge of the election boards in their respective counties, and said county clerks or their deputies, and said judges of the election boards shall keep said slips in a box so constructed as to conceal them from view.
Each applicant for registration who is required to prove his or her ability to read and write the English language shall draw one of such slips at random from said box and, immediately thereafter, read aloud, and in an intelligible manner, to the county clerk, deputy county clerk, or judge of the election board, in charge of same, all of the matte printed on said slip, and then write legibly in English at least ten words taken from the extract from the constitution on said slip, which work are to be selected by the county clerk, deputy county clerk, or judge of the election board conducting such test. Said slips shall be returned to the box immediately after each test, and the contents of said box shall be shaken up before another drawing from same.

Any county clerk, deputy county, clerk or judge of an election board refusing to require the test herein provided to be made when objection to the registration of an applicant has been made, in the manner hereinbefore provided shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not more than six (6) months, or both such fine and imprisonment.​"​

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