Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
Facts of the Case 

A resolution of the Democratic Party of Texas, a group that the Texas Supreme Court had deemed a "voluntary association," allowed only whites to participate in Democratic primary elections. S.S. Allwright was a county election official; he denied Lonnie E. Smith, a black man, the right to vote in the 1940 Texas Democratic primary.


Did denying blacks the right to vote in primary elections violate the Fifteenth Amendment?


The Court overruled its decision in Grovey v. Townsend (1935) and found the restrictions against blacks unconstitutional. Even though the Democratic Party was a voluntary organization, the fact that Texas statutes governed the selection of county-level party leaders, the party conducted primary elections under state statutory authority, and state courts were given exclusive original jurisdiction over contested elections, guaranteed for blacks the right to vote in primaries. Allwright engaged in state action abridging Smith's right to vote because of his race. A state cannot "permit a private organization to practice racial discrimination" in elections, argued Justice Reed. (The Court's decision in this matter was amended on June 12, 1944.)

Cite this Page
SMITH v. ALLWRIGHT. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 04 September 2015. <>.
SMITH v. ALLWRIGHT, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited September 4, 2015).
"SMITH v. ALLWRIGHT," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 4, 2015,