Pope v. Williams
193 U.S. 621 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pope v. Williams, 193 U.S. 621 (1904)

Pope v. Williams

No. 603

Argued March 8-9, 1904

Decided April 4, 1904

193 U.S. 621

Syllabus

While the privilege to vote may not be abridged by a state on account of race, color and previous condition of servitude, the privilege is not given by the federal Constitution or by any of its amendments, nor is it a privilege springing from citizenship of the United States. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162.

While the right to vote for members of Congress is not derived exclusively from the law of the state in which they are chosen, but has its foundation in the Constitution and laws of the United States, the elector must be one entitled to vote under the state statute.

An act of the legislature of a state providing that all persons who shall thereafter remove into the state from any other state, district or territory shall make declaration of their intent to become citizens and residents of the state a year before they have the right to be registered as voters is not violative of the federal Constitution as against a citizen of another state moving into the enacting state after the passage of the act.

This is a writ of error to the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland to review its judgment affirming that of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, which affirmed the proceedings of the Board of Registry of Election District No. 7 of that county

Page 193 U. S. 622

refusing to register petitioner as a legal voter on the ground of his noncompliance with the Maryland law making it necessary for a person coming into the state, with the intention of residing therein, to register his name with the clerk of the circuit court of the proper county, and thereby to indicate the intent of such person to become a citizen and resident of the state.

The act in question was passed March 29, 1902, as chapter 133 of the laws of that year, and as an amendment and supplement to the Public General Laws of the state, title Elections, subtitle Registration, as § 25B, and it is reproduced in the margin. *

Plaintiff in error on September 29, 1903, presented his application

Page 193 U. S. 623

to the Board of Registry of Election District No. 7, Montgomery County, Maryland, then sitting at a place within such district, to be registered and entered as a qualified voter on the registry of voters of that election district, which application the board refused and declined to comply with for the sole reason that he had not complied with this law of Maryland. Thereafter the plaintiff presented a sworn petition to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, in the State of Maryland, praying that court to enter an order to revise the action of the board of registry, and to order and direct that the name of the petitioner should be entered as a qualified voter on the registry of voters of the election district already named. In that sworn petition, he alleged that he had, on June 7, 1902, with his wife and child, removed from the City of Washington, District of Columbia, into Montgomery County, in the State of Maryland,

"having then had, and ever since and now having, the intention of making the State of Maryland the permanent domicil of himself and his family, and of becoming a citizen of said state, and ever since said June 7, 1902, petitioner has resided in the subdivision of Otterbourne, near Chevy Chase, in said Montgomery County, and in the seventh election district of said county."

The petitioner further showed in his petition that he had made application to the proper board of registry in the election district mentioned, and the board had refused to enter his name as a qualified voter on the ground already stated, of noncompliance with the Maryland statute.

The petitioner admitted

"that he did not, within a year prior to said application for registration as a qualified voter, or at any time during the year 1902, in any manner make or register, in the office of or before the Clerk of Montgomery County, Maryland, or in a record book kept by said clerk, a declaration of intention to become a citizen and resident of Maryland, such as is required by the aforesaid law to be made by persons who remove into the State of Maryland after March 29, 1902, as a condition precedent to subsequent registration

Page 193 U. S. 624

of such persons as qualified voters. Petitioner, however, claims and asserts that said section 25B of article 33 of the Code of Public General Laws of Maryland affords no justification for said refusal to register your petitioner as a qualified voter, because said alleged law contravenes and is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Maryland, and is therefore null and void."

The petitioner then asserts and sets forth in his petition several grounds which, as he therein alleges, render the state law a violation of the Constitution of the Maryland, and he also specially sets up and claims that the law is a violation of the Constitution of the United States in the particulars named by him, and which are as follows:

"Said law is repugnant to that portion of section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which declares that, 'all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside,' because by said law it is in effect ordained that male citizens of the United States of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, removing into the State of Maryland after March 29, 1902, with the intention of making said state their permanent domicil, shall not be treated as citizens or residents of Maryland, or given the rights and privileges of citizens of Maryland, until they have been naturalized in the mode prescribed by said law."

"Said law is also repugnant to that portion of section 1 of said Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which prohibits a state from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, because said law operates an unjust and unreasonable discrimination against citizens of the United States coming into the State of Maryland to permanently reside therein after March 29, 1902, who may desire to become qualified voters therein."

"Said law is also repugnant to the general spirit of the Constitution of the United States and the fundamental rights

Page 193 U. S. 625

of citizens of the United States, which deny to a state the power to attach unreasonable or burdensome conditions to the free movement of citizens of the United States out of, into, and settlement within, the confines of any state, district, or territory within the United States."

To this petition there was a general demurrer, which was sustained by the court, which thereupon entered judgment dismissing the petition, with costs to the defendants.

Page 193 U. S. 631

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