Could Newt Gingrich Pass Newt Gingrich's Poll Tests?

May 16, 2011 10:54 am ET — Jamison Foser

Over the weekend, Matthew Yglesias caught Newt Gingrich trying to revive the "poll tests" of the Jim Crow era, in which African Americans were prevented from voting. Here's Gingrich:

I always say that to become an American citizen, immigrants ought to have to learn American history. But maybe we should also have a voting standard that says to vote, as a native born American, you should have to learn American history. You realize how many of our high school graduates because of the decay of the educational system, couldn't pass a citizenship test.

As Yglesias explains, that's an odious attempt to return to one of the darkest eras of American history:

Meanwhile, if Gingrich himself wants to avoid flunking history he might take note of the fact that making US citizens take a poll test would be illegal under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That's for the very good reason that the historical purpose of such proposals has been to prevent black people form voting. This is certainly more subtle than Ron Paul's direct criticism of the Civil Rights Act but either way the spirit is hard to miss.

But there's something else worth noting about Gingrich's suggestion that "native born Americans" shouldn't be allowed to vote until they "learn American history": Newt Gingrich tends to be wrong about American history — even those parts of American history in which he played a prominent role.

Just last week, PolitiFact rated Gingrich claims about 1990s balanced budgets and debt repayment "false." Another Gingrich claim, about the unemployment rate during his tenure as Speaker of the House, was also rated "false." Last year, Gingrich said that when the income tax was first created, "nobody below a million dollars a year paid anything" — a claim that was false by several million Americans. The Washington Post's fact-checker also took a look at Gingrich's campaign announcement video last week, describing it as "Pinocchio-laden" and identifying several specific false claims.

Before Gingrich tries to impose poll tests on others, he might want to spend some time brushing up on his history.

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