Smith v. Allwright
|Smith v. Allwright|
|Reargued January 12, 1944
Decided April 3, 1944
|Full case name||Smith v. Allwright, Election Judge, et al.|
|Citations||321 U.S. 649 (more)|
|Primary elections must be open to voters of all races.|
|Majority||Reed, joined by Stone, Black, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge|
|Concurrence||Frankfurter (in the judgment of the court only)|
Smith v. Allwright , 321 U.S. 649 (1944), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court with regard to voting rights and, by extension, racial desegregation. It overturned the Democratic Party's use of all-white primaries in Texas, and other states where the party used the rule.
Lonnie E. Smith, a black voter in Harris County, Texas, sued county election official S. S. Allwright for the right to vote in a primary election being conducted by the Democratic Party. The 1923 state law he challenged allowed the party to enforce a rule requiring all voters in its primary to be white.
The Democratic Party had controlled politics in the South since the late 19th century (see Solid South) as the several state legislatures effectively disfranchised blacks in the period from 1890 to shortly after the turn of the century. As a result, most Southern elections were decided by the outcome of the Democratic Party primary. Texas had used poll taxes and the white primary to exclude nearly all blacks, Mexican Americans, and other minorities from voting. Representing the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall had argued this case in favor of Lonnie E. Smith.
In Grovey v. Townsend (1935), brought on similar grounds, the Court ruled against the plaintiff, saying the Democratic Party was a private organization with the ability to set its own rules. Grovey's exclusion from the primary was based on the Democratic State Convention in 1932 having established its white primary.
Texas claimed that the Democratic Party was a private organization that could set its own rules of membership. Smith argued that the state by its law had delegated some of its authority to the Democratic Party, which essentially disfranchised him by denying him the ability to vote in what was the only meaningful election in his jurisdiction.
The Court agreed that the restricted primary denied Smith his protection under the law and found in his favor, saying that the state had allowed discrimination to be practiced by delegating its authority to the party.
- Hine, Darlene Clark (1979). Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas. Millwood, NY: KTO Press. ISBN 0527407585.
- Klarman, Michael J. (2001). "The White Primary Rulings: A Case Study in the Consequences of Supreme Court Decisionmaking". Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 29 (1): 55–107.
Works related to Smith v. Allwright at Wikisource