Right to Vote, Elections, and

One hypothesis is that many African-Americans yielded to the intimidation of the time and simply did not want to risk their safety and the safety of their families.

6. Poll Taxes

A poll tax is a tax of a fixed amount charged each person to register to vote. (Websters New World Law Dictionary.) as discussed previously, poll taxes were outlawed by the Twenty First Amendment. The practical effect of poll taxes at the time they were in effect was to prevent African-Americans from voting, as addressed by the Supreme Court, in the case of Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966).

In this case, the appellants brought the case before the Court in order to have Virginias poll tax declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision who had ruled against the appellants and cited to the following in their opinion: 1) “Once the right to vote has been granted, lines which determine who may vote may not be drawn so as to cause invidious discrimination, 2) Fee payments or wealth, just as race, creed, or color, are unrelated to the citizens ability to participate intelligently in the electoral process, 3) the interest of the State, when it comes to voting registration, is limited to the fixing of standards related to the applicants qualifications as a voter, lines drawn on the basis of wealth or property, like those of race, are traditionally disfavored, and 4) Classifications which might impinge on fundamental rights and liberties – such as the franchise – must be closely scrutinized.”

This decision by the Court, decided during the Civil Rights Movement, was a significant evolution in the right to vote for African-Americans. As mentioned in its decision, the Court outlawed any method, not just the poll tax, that would result in discrimination regarding the right to vote granted to citizens under the U.S. Constitution. The Court went further to reason that the requirement of wealth or fee payments were a form of discrimination just as those based on race, creed, or color would be. The Court continued by defining what the interest of the state would be to determine the qualifications of the voters, and that wealth property or creed would not be favored as qualification. Finally, the Court commented that conditions such as these would be closely scrutinized and disfavored by the Court. This landmark case in theory ended many of the obstacles that had confronted African-Americans and their right to vote.

7. Gerrymandering

Is the act of diving voting districts to give a candidate political party a large number of votes in one district while giving a while giving candidates opposition less favor. (Merriam-Webster.) in the past gerrymandering occurred both in terms of race and politics. Racial gerrymandering was the act of dividing the voting districts in terms of voters races. This act was addressed by the Supreme Court in the case of Miller v. Johnson, 512 U.S. 622 (1995).

In this case, the state of Georgia had submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to reapportion its voting districts. These voting districts as a result would be minority-majority districts and that these two districts would not be fairly represented. On the third request to the U.S. Department of Justice, the state approved the plan. The election resulted in three African-American candidates being elected to office and the white voters brought suit. The District court found that the way that the voting districts were apportioned was intended to include areas that included minority neighborhoods.

The issued examined by the U.S. Supreme Court is whether the new districts were in violation of Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act, discussed above. The Court held that the new voting districts as created violated the both laws. The Court reasoned that the design of the voting districts was unnatural and obvious with the primary purpose of bringing black voters into the voting districts. The Court reasoned that were race is a factor in apportioning voting districts; the government must demonstrate a compelling interest for this method of division. The Court held that the government had not demonstrated a compelling interest for this method of dividing the voting districts and their actions were therefore illegal.

Political gerrymandering, similarly, is a method of dividing voting districts to give a political candidate favor over her opposition.

This issue remains very current and has recently been decided by most recently in 2006 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of League of Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399 (2006). In this case, the state of Texas passed a redistricting plan that voters claimed diluted racial minority voting strength and gave political partisanship to a particular voting district. The redistricting plan was originally upheld by the Court of Appeals. (Oyez).

The Supreme Court examined the issue of whether the Texas congress violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the one man one vote principle by creating voting districts based on the current U.S. census and that resulted in a partisan advantage. The Court held that the redistricting plan did not violate the Constitution, but that it did violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it was drawn in such a way as to deny Latino voters the candidate of their choosing. The Court ruled that nothing in the Constitution prohibited the Texas congress from redistricting their voting districts as many times as they wanted. The Court ruled that the only requirement was that congress redesigned the voting districts once every ten years. (Oyez)

With this ruling, the Court re-iterated its ruling in the Miller v. Johnson case nine years earlier. Here, the Court examined the effect that the redistricting plan had on the Latino voters rights and ability to elect a candidate of their choosing. Redistricting plans will be examined for their effects on the citizens rights to vote for a candidate and if it is found that a plan diminishes a citizens right to elect a candidate, it is likely to be disfavored by the Court.

As these cases demonstrate, Courts have been reluctant to uphold any government action that divides voting districts and creates favor or disfavor in terms of race or political voting strength. These issues have arisen frequently over the years, and as these two cases, demonstrate still come before current courts. However, because the right to vote is a fundamental right, courts have been reluctant to rule in favor of any government plan that creates favor or causes prejudice towards a certain group or political party. The standard of review for this classification of cases, those that concern a fundamental right, is strict scrutiny and is the most stringent standard of review that exists.

8. Standards of Review

The standard of review that a court uses is how much scrutiny a court gives a particular case — in other words how narrowly or loosely a court will review a case. The standard of review arises under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14 Amendment which reads that, “No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. amend XIV. The Fourteenth Amendment applies here because if a law that is implemented by the government denies a person equal protection of the laws, the law will be strictly scrutinized by the court. An example of a law that would be given strict scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment would be a law that denies a person of a fundamental right such as the right to vote or discriminates on the basis of race, national origin, religion, or alienage. (Linder).

The standards of review are divided into three categories — strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and rational basis. (Linder). If a law is given strict scrutiny, the government must prove that it has a compelling interest for passing the law and that the law is narrowly tailored to meet this interest. (Linder) for example, in the case of League of Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399 (2006), the court examined the method of reapportioning districts by the state of Texas. Because this reapportioning scheme had a negative effect on the voting rights of the Latino citizens, the Court strictly scrutinized the law. Not only was the law affecting the voting rights, but it was also affecting a minority class which is another reason that a court will review a law under strict scrutiny. Since this act of the state of Texas involved a burden on the fundamental right to vote, the state of Texas had to prove that they had a compelling interest for the re-apportioning scheme and that the law was narrow enough only to.

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