Mims, Fla. May 18, 1947Fellow Citizens:
The Florida State Senate has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to pass a literacy test in order to qualify for voting This bill says that "no person who cannot read any paragraph of the Constitution of the United States or the State of Florida shall be qualified for voting in any election ---".
Senator John E. Mathews of Duval County is the author of this bill. Senator Mathews, as you know, seems to be very anxious to keep somebody from voting. Instead of trying to make it possible for a larger number of citizens to enjoy the fundamental rights and privileges of democracy, Senator Mathews is trying desperately to restrict the number that can enjoythese rights. His main "white primary" bill was decisively defeated in the Senate, but he has managed to get his second bill through the Senate by a narrow margin. Senator Carl Gray has appropriately branded this second measure as a "white primary bill with another suit of clothes on".
Our boys who served in the armed forces did not have to read any paragraph of the Constitution in order to help defend their country. Citizens do not have to read the Constitution in order to pay taxes to support the Govenment. Why, then, is it so necessary that a citizen be forced to read any part of the Constitution before he can help to select those officials who are to govern him and spend his tax money?
This bill exposes prospective voters to too much discrimination. One applicant might be given a very easy paragraph to read; while another applicant, whose vote is not desired, might be asked to read a much more difficult paragraph. It is dangerous to let one official in a county or precinct, to decide who shall vote and who shall not vote.
This bill is now in the House of Representatives. Let us do everything possible to arouse opposition to this dangerous measure. You should immediately wire or write your Representatives and urge them to vote against the Mathews Bill that would require voters to pass a literacy test. Encourage other citizens to do the same thing. Churches, lodges, clubs and other organizations should send telegrams urging the defeat of this bill.
Yours for democracy in Florida
(signed by Harry T. Moore)
Harry T. Moore, Executive Secretary
1. Florida State Conference, NAACP
2. Progressive Voters' League of Florida
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