Gomillion v. Lightfoot,
364 U.S. 339 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960)

Gomillion v. Lightfoot

No. 32

Argued October 18-19, 1960

Decided November 14, 1960

364 U.S. 339


Negro citizens sued in a Federal District Court in Alabama for a declaratory judgment that an Act of the State Legislature changing the boundaries of the City of Tuskegee is unconstitutional and for an injunction against its enforcement. They alleged that the Act alters the shape of Tuskegee from a square to an irregular 28-sided figure; that it would eliminate from the City all but four or five of its 400 Negro voters without eliminating any white voter; and that its effect was to deprive Negroes of their right to vote in Tuskegee elections on account of their race. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that it had no authority to declare the Act invalid or to change any boundaries of municipal corporations fixed by the State Legislature.

Held: It erred in doing so, since the allegations, if proven, would establish that the inevitable effect of the Act would be to deprive Negroes of their right to vote on account of their race, contrary to the Fifteenth Amendment. Pp. 364 U. S. 340-348.

(a) Even the broad power of a State to fix the boundaries of its municipalities is limited by the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbids a State to deprive any citizen of the right to vote because of his race. Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U. S. 161, and related cases distinguished. Pp. 364 U. S. 342-345.

(b) A state statute which is alleged to have the inevitable effect of depriving Negroes of their right to vote in Tuskegee because of their race is not immune to attack simply because the mechanism employed by the Legislature is a "political" redefinition of municipal boundaries. Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549, distinguished. Pp. 364 U. S. 346-348.

270 F. 2d 594, reversed.

Page 364 U. S. 340

Primary Holding

A state has violated the Fifteenth Amendment when it constructs the boundary lines between electoral districts for the purpose of denying equal representation to African-Americans.

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