Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, No. 48 Supreme Court of The United States 383 U.S. 663; 86 S. Ct. 1079; 1966

March 24, 1966, Decided

CORE TERMS: poll, voting, qualification, Fourteenth Amendment, voter, election, wealth, franchise, Constitutional Law, suffrage, invidious, classification, prerequisite, color, discriminatory, electoral, paying, introduce, formula, restrain, resident, license, irrational, confined, literacy, freehold, discriminate, join, dissented, joined

SUMMARY: Virginia residents instituted suits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to have declared unconstitutional provisions of the Virginia Constitution requiring the payment of a poll tax as a voting qualification. The three-judge District Court dismissed the complaint.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed. Overruling Breedlove v Suttles, the opinion of Douglas, J., expressing the view of six members of the Court, held that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment bars a state from making payment of a state tax a prerequisite to voting.

Black, J., dissented on the grounds that (1) a poll tax does not violate the equal protection clause, and (2) this clause should not be used to write into the Constitution the Court's notion of good governmental policy.

Harlan, J., joined by Stewart, J., dissented on the ground that the Court's holding departed from long-established standards governing the equal protection clause and that there was a rational basis for a state's poll tax as a voting qualification.

JUDGES: Warren, Fortas, Harlan, Brennan, Black, Stewart, Clark, White, Douglas

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