Role of the Supreme Court

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The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. That is an expert from the United States Constitution, specifically the tenth amendment, pertaining to States’ powers. One of those powers was the right to decide the qualifications a person must meet in order to be able to vote in a particular state. In the history of America, there are numerous instances where the qualifications the States’ set in place were lawful or not, whether they are Constitutional or not, and that is decided by the highest court in America; the Supreme Court.

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        One Supreme Court case pertaining to voter qualifications was Gomillion V. Lightfoot (1960). The petitioner was Gomillion, the responder was Lightfoot and the court was held at the Alabama General Assembly. The case was sparked when Alabama State legislature re-drew the electoral boundaries of Tuskegee. They turned the district from a square shape to a figure with twenty-eight different sides. The purpose of this was to exclude essentially all African American citizens from the city limits of Tuskegee and place them in a new district where no whites lived. By doing this these people were no longer allowed to vote in local elections.

When brought to the Supreme Court the question that was asked was: did the redrawing of Tuskegee’s electoral district boundaries violate the Fifteenth Amendment? The case was argued for one day between October 18th through 19th and a decision was made on November 14, 1960. The ruling was unanimous throughout all of the Supreme Court Justices in favor of Gomillion. States are insulated from judicial review when they exercise power “wholly within the domain of state interest.” However, in this case, Alabama’s representatives were unable to identify “any countervailing municipal function” the act was designed to serve. The court came to the conclusion that the only reason for drawing district lines in such a way as to deprive black people of political power.

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