Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections
383 U.S. 663 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966)

Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections

No. 48

Argued January 25-26, 1966

Decided March 24, 1966*

383 U.S. 663


Appellants, Virginia residents, brought this action to have Virginia's poll tax declared unconstitutional. The three-judge District Court dismissed the complaint on the basis of Breedlove v. Suttles,302 U. S. 277.

Held: A State's conditioning of the right to vote on the payment of a fee or tax violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Breedlove v. Suttle, supra, pro tanto overruled. Pp. 383 U. S. 665-670.

(a) Once the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines which determine who may vote may not be drawn so as to cause invidious discrimination. Pp. 383 U. S. 665-667.

(b) Fee payments or wealth, like race, creed, or color, are unrelated to the citizen's ability to participate intelligently in the electoral process. Pp. 383 U. S. 666-668.

(c) The interest of the State, when it comes to voting registration, is limited to the fixing of standards related to the applicant's qualifications as a voter. P. 383 U. S. 668.

(d) Lines drawn on the basis of wealth or property, like those of race, are traditionally disfavored. P. 383 U. S. 668.

(e) Classifications which might impinge on fundamental rights and liberties -- such as the franchise -- must be closely scrutinized. P. 383 U. S. 670.

240 F.Supp. 270, reversed.

Page 383 U. S. 664

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Primary Holding

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from requiring citizens to pay a fee or tax to obtain access to polls.