An appeal, by Virginia residents, was presented before the United States Supreme Court in 1966, against the Virginia Board of Elections. The main issue in the legal suit was the introduction of an annual poll tax among Virginia’s residents by the state’s General Assembly. Each person was expected to pay a levy, not exceeding $1.50 to qualify for registration as a voter (Douglas, 1965). During the first hearing, by the District Court, the case was dismissed on the grounds of previous rulings for Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 legal suite (Douglas, 1965). After arguing the case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and declared the poll tax unconstitutional.
The above case illustrates the way elections are conducted in the United States and the evolving Federal power over elections. Article 1, Section 4, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution allows the state legislature to regulate the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives” (“Justia U.S. Law,” n.d). The provision minimizes interference of the federal government on state elections (Hale, Montjoy & Brown, 2015). However, the court’s ruling on the selected issue was based on federal laws, which are reflected in the fourteenth amendment of the U.S. constitution. Section 1 of the amendment provides that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (“Legal Information Institute,” n.d). Although the state of Virginia was conferred with the right of developing its manner of registering voters, its poll tax policy was regarded as a violation of federal law. This ruling reveals the unconfined authority of the federal government to intervene and develop regulations that interfere with states’ election independence.
Douglas, W.O. (1965). U.S. Reports: Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966). Library of Congress. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep383663/
Hale, K., Montjoy, R., & Brown, M. (2015). Administering elections: How American elections work (Elections, Voting, Technology) (1st ed.). New York, NY 10010: Palgrave Macmillan.
Justia U.S. Law. (n.d). Congressional power to regulate. Retrieved from https://law.justia.com/constitution/us/article-1/18-congressional-power-to-regulate.html
Legal Information Institute (n.d). 14th Amendment. Cornell Law School. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv