Hill v. Stone
421 U.S. 289 (1975)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Hill v. Stone, 421 U.S. 289 (1975)

Hill v. Stone

No. 73-1723

Argued January 14, 1975

Decided May 12, 1975

421 U.S. 289

Syllabus

After a bond authorization election to finance construction of a city library was defeated in Fort Worth, Tex., appellee Fort Worth residents brought an action in the Federal District Court challenging the provisions of the State Constitution, Election Code, and city charter limiting the right to vote in city bond issue elections to persons who have "rendered" or listed real, mixed, or personal property for taxation in the election district in the year of the election. A three-judge District Court held that this restriction on suffrage did not serve any compelling state interest, and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held:

1. The Texas rendering requirement erects a classification that impermissibly disfranchises persons otherwise qualified to vote, solely because they have not rendered some property for taxation. Pp. 421 U. S. 294-301.

(a) As long as the election is not one of special interest, any classification restricting the franchise on grounds other than residence, age, and citizenship cannot stand unless the district or State can demonstrate that the classification serves a compelling state interest. Kramer v. Union School District,395 U. S. 621, 395 U. S. 626-627; Cipriano v. City of Houma,395 U. S. 701, 395 U. S. 704. Pp. 421 U. S. 295-297.

(b) Fort Worth's election was not a "special interest" election, since a general obligation bond issue, even where the debt services will be paid entirely out of property taxes, is a matter of general interest. City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski,399 U. S. 204. And the rendering requirement's alleged furtherance of the state interests in protecting property owners who will bear the direct burden of retiring the city's bond indebtedness and in encouraging prospective voters to render their property and thereby help enforce the State's tax laws, falls far short of meeting the "compelling state interest" test applied in Kramer, Cipriano, and Phoenix, supra. Pp. 421 U. S. 298-301.

Page 421 U. S. 290

2. The District Court's ruling should apply only to those bond authorization elections that were not final on the date of that court's judgment, and as to other jurisdictions that may have similar restrictive voting classifications, this Court's decision should apply only to elections not final as of the date of this decision. Pp. 421 U. S. 301-302.

377 F.Supp. 1016, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 421 U. S. 302. DOUGLAS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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