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Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections

Citation. 383 U.S. 663, 86 S. Ct. 1079, 16 L. Ed. 2d 169, 1966 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Virginia residents brought suit against the State Board of Elections, alleging that the poll tax violates the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A State poll tax violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.


Virginia levied a poll tax not exceeding $1.50 on every resident of the State 21 years of age or older. Residents challenged the State tax under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.


Does a State poll tax violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?


Yes. Reversed and remanded. Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas) notes that the tax divides the eligible voters of the State into two classes: those who can afford the tax and those who cannot. As such, it invidiously discriminates against those who cannot afford the tax.


Because voting is a fundamental right, classifications involving the right to vote are closely scrutinized. In the present case, a classification based on wealth is clearly inappropriate.

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