The Cost of Voting

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This is my great-grandfather, Rufus Francis Higginbotham, Jr.  I’m not sure when this photo was taken, it was not dated.  Rufus was born in 1876 and died in 1923.

Rufus F Higginbotham Jr.

On my last trip to Texarkana, my Uncle Charlie Starks gave me a leather pouch that had a ton of personal papers in it that belonged to Rufus and his wife Dona.

This is Dona.  Also known as Eudonia A. Williams, wife of Rufus and daughter of my ever elusive Rev. Francis Hereford Williams.  I hope to finish my posts on him one day soon.  Anyway, here she is.  Not sure of the date on this photo either.  Dona was born in 1881 and died in 1927.

Dona Higginbotham

I pretty much figured out while researching that my Higginbotham family has always been involved in politics.  I’m not going to go into all of that, it makes my head spin, but what I wanted to show you today was the cost of voting for them.

In the leather pouch my Uncle Charlie Starks gave me, I found Poll Tax receipts.  Every time Rufus and Dona voted it cost them a $1.

Poll Tax 1897 Rufus Higginbotham

This is the earliest receipt that I found for Rufus.  His vote in 1897 cost him $1.00 and today it would have cost him $27.78.  I found poll receipts for him for the years of 1897, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, and even 1923 the year he died.  That means over the course of those years in today’s money, he would have spent $524.41.  Just to vote!  Wow!

Poll Tax 1916 Dona Higginbotham

The earliest receipt I found for Dona was 1916.  In 1916, it cost her $1.00 and in today’s money it would have cost her $20.83.  I found poll tax receipts for her for the years of 1916, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, and 1926.  Over the course of those years, that means it would have cost her $93.34 in today’s money.  Wow again!

If you are wondering how I figured that up, there is a nifty little tool HERE that will calculate the value of the dollar back then verses now.  I use this all the time, it is a great tool.

In 1964 they did away with the poll tax.  Before that my Dad (also named Rufus) can remember his parents Earl and Edna Higginbotham (Earl is the son of the above mentioned Rufus and Dona) loading up people who couldn’t pay the poll tax and taking them to the polls to vote and paying the tax for them.  That’s how important it was to them for people to vote.   There is no telling how much money they spent getting people to vote.

So, in honor of them, and because it’s important to me too, I will be casting my  vote next week.  I hope you will do the same.

I mean, why not?

It’s free now.


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