Harman v. Forssenius

RESPONDENT: Forssenius
LOCATION: United States Post Office and Courthouse

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 380 US 528 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1965 / Mar 02, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 27, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Harman v. Forssenius

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1965 in Harman v. Forssenius

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1965 in Harman v. Forssenius

Earl Warren:

Number 360, A. M. Harman Jr., et al, Appellants, versus Lars Forssenius.

Mr. Carter.

Joseph C. Carter, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Before stating precisely the issues in this case on appeal and the facts out of which they arose may I first draw the attention of the Court to the fact that the basic underlying issue here is the constitutionality of a single section of the Virginia Code designated as Section 24—17.2 and appearing at the middle of page 9 in the record.

This statute is entitled Proof of residence; how it furnish and it states the methods available to prove residence of the qualification for voting in elections held in Virginia.

With this general question in mind may I now state the precise questions on appeal in this case, first of all as stated appellant's opening brief, did the court below err in holding this statute, Section 24—17.2 invalid under Article I, Section 2 and the Seventeenth Amendment of the constitution of the United States as creating a new qualification for voting in congressional elections which was not required for voting in elections for the most numerous branch of the General Assembly of Virginia.

Question number two, did the court below err in issuing on the authority of Article I, Section 2 and the Seventeenth Amendment a general injunction against the enforcement of the statute which injunction applied in presidential elections as well as congressional election.

Number three, did the court below err in denying two preliminary motions by the appellants on a motion to state the proceedings under the doctrine of abstention and the other, a motion to dismiss for failure to join indispensible parties and for lack of standing to sue on the part of the complainants.

Now, these three questions have been added two other since the brief for the appellees and the amicus brief for the government has been filed in this case.

The first is and this is the thread of argument that seems to run throughout the brief of the appellees, does the statute.

Section 24—17.2 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution?

And I hope in view of the opinion announced this morning as well as the shortness of time that I may reserve an opportunity to answer this argument later.

In the amicus brief filed by the United States, we have presented for the first time the question, does this Section of the Virginia Code violate the Twenty-fourth Amendment itself without more and without reference to other constitutional provisions?

The facts of the case maybe stated briefly as follows; prior to the ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment last year, the constitution of Virginia in Sections 18 and 20 and the Virginia Code in the implementing Sections 24—17 and 24—67 provided a uniform rule for registration and voting of electors in all election, state and federal.

The qualifications for voting set forth in Section 18 of the Virginia constitution are as follows; U.S. citizenship, 21 years of age, residence in the state one year, the city or county six months and the voting precinct 30 days prior to the election in question.

Number four, registration to vote under Section 20 of the constitution and number five, payment of poll taxes.

The qualifications for a registration set forth in Section 20 of the Virginia constitution are virtually the same as those for voting contained in Section 18, they're restated in Section 20 including poll tax claims.

But under Section 20 of the Virginia constitution the applicant must complete and sign in the presence of the registration officer an application for registration which states the required qualifications outlined in that constitutional section.

And it's also answered under oath any additional questions as to those precise qualifications which may be put to him by the registration officer.

But to answer to those questions on the written applications filed must be certified by that officer and kept by him as permanent records.

William O. Douglas:

And he could avoid all that by paying the poll tax?

Joseph C. Carter, Jr.:

No sir.

The poll tax payment is only one of the four qualifications for registration and of the five qualifications for voting.

He must still when he goes to register --

William O. Douglas:

Does he – (Voice Overlap) -- does he still have to do this if he pays the poll tax?

Joseph C. Carter, Jr.:

Yes sir.

At the same time payment of the poll tax became a voter qualification in Virginia, this has been some years ago.

Permanent registration became a practical institution there.

That means that once a voter is registered in the first place he remains on the registration role until he dies or moves away or take some voluntary action to have himself removed.

As a practical matter, his name remains there for many years.