ALLEN v. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
3
Appellant 
Allen et al.
Appellee 
State Board Of Elections et al.
Consolidation 
Fairley et al. v. Patterson, Attorney General of Mississippi, et al., No. 25
Bunton et al. v. Patterson, Attorney General of Mississippi, et al., No. 26
Whitley et al. v. Williams, Governor of Mississippi, et al., No. 36
Advocates
(for the appellants in No. 3)
(for the appellants in Nos. 25, 26, and 36)
(appellants the in Nos. 25, 26, and 36)
(First Assistant Attorney General of Virginia, for the appellees in No. 3)
(Assistant Attorney General of Mississippi, for the appellees in Nos. 25, 26, and 36)
(Assistant Attorney General of Mississippi, for the appellees in Nos. 25, 26, and 36)
(Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice, as amicus curiae, urging reversal in Nos. 25, 26, and 36)
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Facts of the Case 

Voters and candidates in Mississippi and Virginia filed four separate cases seeking judgments that certain amendments to their states' election laws and procedures were subject to the pre-approval requirements of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and hence were not enforceable until the state complied with the requirements. The district courts found that the Voting Rights Act did not apply to the voting changes in the four cases and dismissed the complaints. The voters and candidates filed direct appeals, and the cases were consolidated.

Question 

1. May a private litigant bring a suit to determine whether a voting change falls under § 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

2. If so, should these private litigants bring their suits in their local districts (even though certain suits under the Act must be brought in the District of Columbia)?

3. Did Congress intend for these suits to be heard before three-judge district courts with direct appeals to the Supreme Court?

4. Did the statutory and rules changes involved deal with “a voting qualification or prerequisite for voting, or standard, practice or procedure with respect to voting” within the meaning of section 5?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Allen, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Voting Rights Act of 1965

Yes, Yes, Yes. And Yes. The Supreme Court held that § 5 authorized a private right of action based on the remedial aims of the Voting Rights Act. The Court also interpreted the Act to provide that litigants bring these suits in their local district courts, and that three-judge district courts be convened (as was true at that time in constitutional challenges).

As to the substantive issue in the case, Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Voting Rights Act was "aimed at the subtle, as well as the obvious, state regulations which have the effect of denying citizens their right to vote because of their race." Therefore, the Court concluded that Congress intended that "all changes, no matter how small, be subjected to §5 scrutiny." The judgments were reversed, and all four cases were remanded to the district courts with instructions to issue injunctions restraining further enforcement of the enactments until such time as the states adequately demonstrated compliance with the approval requirements of the Act.

Justice John Marshall Harlan II, concurring in part and dissenting in part, argued that the language of § 5 referred only to laws by which voters registered to vote and had their ballots counted, and he therefore agreed that several of the disputed voting changes at issue were covered by the Act but disagreed as to several others. Justice Hugo Black dissented on the ground that § 5, in his view, is unconstitutional.

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ALLEN v. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_3>.
ALLEN v. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_3 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"ALLEN v. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1968/1968_3.