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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).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff challenged state poll tax on Equal Protection grounds.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A state violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.


Virginia law mandated payment of a poll tax prior to voting. Plaintiff, including several other Virginia residents brought suit, arguing the fee violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Whether a state can condition the right to vote on payment of a poll tax.


No. A state cannot condition the right to vote on payment of a poll tax.


Justice Black

The Court is consulting its own notions rather than following the original meaning of the Constitution. The nine members of this Court are far less qualified to choose a new constitutional political theory than the people of this country.

Justice Harlan

This decision should be left up to the states or the federal political process. The fact that it is not should be a matter of continuing concern.


The opportunity for equal participation by all voters in the election of state legislators is required. Wealth or fee paying has no relation to voting qualifications; the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened or conditioned. Judgement reversed.

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