Morse v. Republican Party of Virginia
Decided on Mar. 27, 1996; 517 US 186


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Voting rights, poll tax

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 require preclearance of the Republican Party of Virginia's decision to exact a fee to nominate the party's candidate for senator?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Appellee Republican Party of Virginia (Party) invited all registered Virginia voters willing to declare their support for the Party's nominees at the 1994 general election to become delegates to a convention to nominate the Party's candidate for United States Senator upon payment of a registration fee. Appellants Bartholomew and Enderson desired, and were qualified, to become delegates, but were rejected because they refused to pay the fee; appellant Morse paid the fee with funds advanced by supporters of the eventual nominee. Alleging, inter alia, that the imposition of the fee violated §5 and 10 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, appellants filed a complaint seeking an injunction preventing the Party from imposing the fee and ordering it to return the fee paid by Morse. The three judge District Court convened to consider the §5 and §10 claims granted the Party's motion to dismiss, concluding that the 'general rule' that §5 covers political parties to the extent that they are empowered to conduct primary elections is inapplicable to the selection of nominating convention delegates under a regulation promulgated by the Attorney General of the United States and under this Court's summary decision in Williams v. Democratic Party of Georgia, 409 U.S. 809; and that only the Attorney General has authority to enforce §10."

On appeal the US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the District Circuit.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Brief of amici curiae urging reversal was filed by L. McDonald for the ACLU. Paul Bender, Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the appellants.

Pamela S. Karlan, argued the cause for the appellants.

E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., argued the cause for the appellees.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The Party's decision to exact the registration fee was subject to 5 [section 5 of the Voting Rights Act], which, among other things, prohibits Virginia and other covered jurisdictions from enacting or enforcing "any voting qualification or Page II prerequisite... different from that in force... on" a specified date unless the change has been precleared by the Attorney General...

By limiting the opportunity for voters to participate in the Party's convention, the fee undercuts their influence on the field of candidates whose names will appear on the ballot, and thus weakens the 'effectiveness' of their votes cast in the general election itself."

The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the District Circuit.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 4 Con

  • Stevens, J. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Ginsburg, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Breyer, S. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Souter, D. Pro (Joined concurring opinion)
  • O'Connor, S. Pro (Joined concurring opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Thomas, C. Con (Joined and wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Kennedy, A. Con (Joined and wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinions)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the District Court's judgment; the Supreme Court reversed and remanded in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.