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Mon, 04.01.1935

Grovey v. Townsend Is Decided

*On this date in 1935, Grovey v. Townsend was decided.  This United States Supreme Court decision held a reformulation of Texas's white primaries system to be constitutional. The case was the third in a series of Court decisions known as the "Texas primary cases."

In Nixon v. Herndon (1927), Lawrence A. Nixon sued for damages under federal civil rights laws after being denied a ballot in a Democratic party primary election based on race. The Court found his favor based on the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, while not discussing his Fifteenth Amendment claim. After Texas amended its statute to authorize the political party's state executive committee to set voting qualifications, Nixon sued again; in Nixon v. Condon (1932), the Court again found his favor based on the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Democratic Party of Texas state convention adopted a rule banning black voting in primary elections. R. R. Grovey, a black Texas resident, sued Townsend, a county clerk enforcing the rule, for violating Grovey's civil rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Court unanimously upheld the party's rule as constitutional, distinguishing the discrimination by a private organization from that of the state in the previous primary cases. However, Grovey would be overturned nine years later in Smith v. Allwright (1944), another of the Texas primary cases.

Reference:

Justia.com

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