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Mon, 05.02.1932

Nixon v. Condon Is Decided

*On this date in 1932, Nixon v. Condon was decided. This was a voting rights case decided by the United States Supreme Court, which found the all-white Democratic Party primary in Texas unconstitutional. Nixon v. Condon was one of four cases brought to challenge the Texas all-white Democratic Party primary.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) supported all challenges. With Smith v. Allwright (1944), the Supreme Court decisively prohibited the white primary. In Nixon v. Herndon (1927), the Court struck down a Texas statute banning blacks from participating in the Texas Democratic primary election. Shortly after that decision, the Texas Legislature repealed the invalidated ordinance, declared that the effect of the Nixon decision was to create an emergency requiring immediate action, and replaced the old statute with a new one.

The new law provided that every political party would "determine who shall be qualified to vote or otherwise participate in such political party." Under the authority of this law, the executive committee of the Texas Democratic Party adopted a resolution stating that "all white democrats who are qualified under the constitution and laws of Texas" would be allowed to vote. In the 1928 Democratic primary, Dr. L. A. Nixon of El Paso again tried to vote. He was again denied on the ground that the resolution allowed only whites to vote (Nixon was black). Nixon sued the judges of elections in federal Court. 

The defendants argued that there was no state action and, therefore, no equal protection violation because the Democratic Party was "merely a voluntary association" that had the power to choose its own membership. In a five to four ruling, the Court reasoned that the Texas statute gave the party's executive committee the authority to exclude would-be members of the party – an authority.

The Court said that the executive committee hitherto had not possessed – the executive committee was acting under a state grant of power. Because there was state action, the case was controlled by Nixon v. Herndon (1927), which prohibited state officials from "discharg[ing] their official functions in such a way as to discriminate invidiously between white citizens and black."

Reference:

Law. Cornell.edu

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