Allen v. State Board of Elections

PETITIONER: Allen et al.
RESPONDENT: State Board Of Elections et al.
LOCATION: Stanley's Home

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 393 US 544 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1968 / Oct 16, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1969

Facts of the case

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the tests or devices were ceased for usage during election for the term of five years in some states including Mississippi and Virginia. Because of that, those territories were restricted to enact or administrate any voting procedures or rulings another from these ones valid on November 1, 1964, without submitting and approving of the amendments by the Attorney General or by the declaratory decision of the District Court of Columbia .

Voters and candidates from these states brought the separate lawsuits claiming that some changes to their local voting legislation were mandatory to approve and thus were not valid until the state adhered all the rules. The district judge upheld that the Voting Rights Act didn`t extend to these amendments and then refused the claims. The appellants decided to unite the lawsuits and sued by the one appellation. The respondent was represented by the State Board of Elections.

The main issues of the claim were whether the one appellant filed a claim to define whether election amendments were under the regulations of the aforementioned act and if such lawsuits should be claimed to the District Court instead of the District Court of Columbia. Also, the plaintiffs argued that whether Congress authorized the revise of such cases by the Supreme Court of the USA instead of local trials. And the last claim of the lawsuit was concerned whether the statutory and rule amendments were related to the voting qualification or requirements for elections and suffrage standards, policies and process under the interpretation of section 5.

The Supreme Court underlined that the part 5 of the discussed law empowered the private person to act under the remedial aims of the act. The judges established the rule that the appellants should sue before the district courts.

The case study in Allen v State Board of Elections sums up that regarding the main issue of the lawsuit the decision ordered that the Voting law was devoted to denying some discriminatory provisions of the state legislation. Thus, the judges upheld that Congress authorized that all amendments were regulated under the jurisdiction of the section 5.

Hence, the judgments of Allen cases were revised and returned to the district courts with some guidelines to uphold some restrictions of the further law exercising until the states would adhere the requirements of the voting law.


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?

Media for Allen v. State Board of Elections

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1968 in Allen v. State Board of Elections

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1968 in Allen v. State Board of Elections

Earl Warren:

Numbers 25, 26, and 36, J.C.Fairley, et al. versus Joe T. Patterson, et al.

Mr. Clerk, this isn't listed very well.

You'll have to be satisfied with what I've given.

We'll -- who is to address the Court first?

I beg your pardon?

Mr. Derfner, you may proceed with your argument.

Armand Derfner:

May it please the Court.

The question in these three consolidated cases from the Southern District of Mississippi is how much room Congress intended to leave when it passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to allow the southern states covered by the Voting Rights Act to continue evading the guarantees of the Fifteenth Amendment.

The answer, we believe, is found in the provision of that Act which is involved in this case, Section 5 in which Congress, after having, in Section 4, outlawed any tests or devices when it was aiming primarily at that time literacy tests, went further and provided that no state covered by the Act might enact or seek to administer any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting where standard practice or procedure with respect to voting different from that in effect in 1964 -- November 1964 without seeking prior approval from either the Attorney General of the United States or getting a declaratory judgment from the District of Columbia -- from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia establishing that that new statute or regulation did not have a discriminatory purpose or effect.

The three cases here, Number 25, Fairley versus Patterson, 26, Bunton versus Patterson, and 36, Whitley versus Williams, all involve statutes which the State of Mississippi passed in 1966 at its first legislative session after the passage of the Voting Rights Act which, we claim, have the purpose and effect of discriminating and voting by reason of race and which are covered -- which are voting laws within the meaning of Section 5 and which -- as to which, there is no dispute that these statutes were not submitted to the Attorney General or for declaratory judgment.

In Number 25, Fairley versus Patterson, the legislature allowed a shift in the manner of electing -- allowed a county to adopt to shift its manner of electing the Board of Supervisors with the chief executive officers of the county from beat or district elections to at large elections.

Thus, allowing a county that might have one or more Negro majority beats to elect all White supervisors if it were a White-majority County as a whole.

In Number 26, Bunton, the legislature changed the office of county superintendent of education which have previously been elective to appointive post, and did so with respect to 11 counties of which 9 had Negro majorities.

Mr. Lichtman will argue Number 25 and Number 26.

In Number 36, Whitley versus Williams, the legislature adopted an amendment to Section 3260 which provides the manner by which independent candidates may gain -- may get on the ballot and, in effect, set up an obstacle course that was designed and had the effect of forcing independent candidates, except at great trouble and effort, to go into the democratic primary or a party primary and to avoid seeking to run as independents.

The background of 19 --

Abe Fortas:

Mr. Derfner, would you mind speaking a little bit closer?

Armand Derfner:

I'm sorry, Justice Fortas.

Number 36, Whitley versus Williams, arose in 1966.

The statute involved an amendment to Section 3260, was passed in June of 1966 after Reverent Whitley and one other person had run in the democratic primary, Reverent Whitley having run for the Office of the United States Senator, having lost in the primary, and then indicating that he was interested in running in the general election.

At that point, the amendment was passed and it had this effect.

It multiplied the Number of signatures that a person must gain -- must get in order to gain a place in the ballot as an independent.

In the case of Reverent Whitley, the Number of signatures was multiplied by -- it was changed from 1,000 to 10,000 since it was a statewide office.

It required these signatures --

William O. Douglas:

How many registered voters are there in that state?

Armand Derfner:

In Mississippi, at that time, there were probably in the neighborhood of 400,000 or 500,000 registered voters.

The second thing it did was to require that these signatures be submitted at a much earlier date than formerly.

The former practice -- former statute, 3260, had provided that the required signatures be submitted 40 days before the general election, in practical effect, the end of September.

The new regulation -- the new statute required that the signatures be submitted at the same time as one would qualify for running in the party primary.

Now, the statutes governing running in party primaries require that 60 days before the primary a candidate submit his intent -- notice of his intention to run and a filing fee of a small amount to the Executive Committee -- Executive Secretary of his party which means that, under the new statute, whereas someone wanting to run in a party primary had to submit by some date in April, say, $100 or $200 plus a notice of intention to run.