Kramer v. Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 15,
395 U.S. 621 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kramer v. Union Free Sch. Dist. No. 15, 395 U.S. 621 (1969)

Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15

No. 258

Argued January 16, 1969

Decided June 16, 1969

395 U.S. 621


Section 2012 of the New York Education Law provides that, in certain school districts residents who are otherwise eligible to vote in state and federal elections may vote in the school district elections only if they own or lease taxable realty in the district or are parents or custodians of children enrolled in the local public schools. Appellant, a bachelor who neither owns nor leases taxable real property, challenged the constitutionality of the section. A three-judge district court ruled § 2012 constitutional.

Held: Section 2012 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 395 U. S. 625-633.

(a) Where a state statute grants the right to vote to some bona fide residents of requisite age and citizenship and denies the franchise to others, it must be determined whether the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest. Pp. 395 U. S. 625-630.

(b) Assuming, arguendo, that New York legitimately might limit the franchise in these school district elections to those "primarily interested in school affairs," the § 2012 classifications do not accomplish this purpose with sufficient precision to justify denying the franchise to appellant and members of his class, since the classifications include many persons at best only remotely interested in school affairs, and exclude others directly interested. Pp. 395 U. S. 630-633.

282 F.Supp. 70, reversed and remanded.

Page 395 U. S. 622

Primary Holding

Strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard for reviewing a law that gives some people the right to vote and not others, if they are of a similar age and citizenship status.


Notwithstanding their overall eligibility to vote, residents in certain New York school districts were allowed to vote in school district elections only if they owned or leased taxable property in the school district or had custody of children in its public schools. Kramer did not own or lease any taxable property in his district, nor did he have any children. He argued that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause.



  • Earl Warren (Author)
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • William Orville Douglas

The civil rights at the core of a representative government permit no discrimination in determining who has the right to vote. Strict scrutiny is appropriate if the right is granted to some people of the required age and citizenship status but withheld from others. A rational basis is not sufficient because there is no presumption of constitutionality. Even if the state does have a compelling interest in limiting the right to vote, this law is not sufficiently narrowly tailored to achieve this interest. It excludes people who might have a genuine interest in school board elections, such as parents of preschool children who do not own or lease property.


  • Potter Stewart (Author)
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • John Marshall Harlan II

Rational basis review is appropriate because the law does not relate to racial discrimination, nor does it infringe on a constitutionally protected right. The Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to vote. Under a rational basis analysis, the law is constitutional.

Case Commentary

While there is no explicit right to vote granted in the Constitution, participating in the electoral process is a fundamental interest of all citizens and thus appropriate to analyze under equal protection.

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