Cipriano v. City of Houma
395 U.S. 701 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701 (1969)

Cipriano v. City of Houma

No. 705

Argued April 24, 1969

Decided June 16, 1969

395 U.S. 701

Syllabus

Louisiana law provides that only "property taxpayers" have the right to vote in elections called to approve the issuance of revenue bonds by a municipal utility system. At a special election, a majority of the property taxpayers approved a bond issue for the City of Houma's municipally owned utility systems. Within the period permitted to contest the election result, appellant, a nonproperty taxpayer otherwise qualified to vote, brought suit for himself and others similarly situated to enjoin the issuance of the bonds and to obtain a declaratory judgment that the limitation of the franchise to property taxpayers is unconstitutional. A three-judge District Court held the limitation constitutional.

Held:

1. The "property taxpayer" limitation on the franchise violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, ante, p. 395 U. S. 621.

(a) Where the State grants the right to vote in a limited purpose election to some qualified voters and denies it to others, "the Court must determine whether the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest." Kramer, supra, at 395 U. S. 627.

(b) Here, the benefits and burdens of the bond issue fall indiscriminately on property owner and nonproperty owner alike, and the classification thus unconstitutionally excludes otherwise qualified voters who are as substantially affected and directly interested in the matter voted on as those who are permitted to vote.

2. This decision will have prospective effect, and will apply only where the time for challenging the election result has not expired, or in cases brought within the time specified for challenging the election and which are not yet final.

286 F.Supp. 823, reversed and remanded.

Page 395 U. S. 702

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