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SOUTH ET AL. v. PETERS

decided: April 17, 1950.

SOUTH ET AL
v.
PETERS, CHAIRMAN OF THE GEORGIA STATE DEMOCRATIC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 339 U.S. Page 276]

 The Georgia statute which appellants attack as violative of the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Amendments provides that county unit votes shall determine the outcome of a primary election.*fn1 Each county is allotted a

[ 339 U.S. Page 277]

     number of unit votes, ranging from six for the eight most populous counties, to two for most of the counties. The candidate who receives the highest popular vote in the county is awarded the appropriate number of unit votes. Appellants, residents of the most populous county in the State, contend that their votes and those of all other voters in that county have on the average but one-tenth the weight of those in the other counties. Urging that this amounts to an unconstitutional discrimination against them, appellants brought this suit to restrain adherence to the statute in the forthcoming Democratic Party primary for United States Senator, Governor and other state offices.

The court below dismissed appellants' petition. 89 F.Supp. 672. We affirm. Federal courts consistently refuse to exercise their equity powers in cases posing political issues arising from a state's geographical distribution of electoral strength among its political subdivisions. See MacDougall v. Green, 335 U.S. 281 (1948); Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549 (1946); Wood v. Broom, 287 U.S. 1, 8 (1932); cf. Johnson v. Stevenson, 170 F.2d 108 (C. A. 5th Cir., 1948).

Affirmed.

Disposition

89 F.Supp. 672, affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs, dissenting.

I suppose that if a State reduced the vote of Negroes, Catholics, or Jews so that each got only one-tenth of a vote, we would strike the law down. The right to vote in a primary was held in Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536, to be covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And where, as in Georgia, a party primary election is an integral part of the state election machinery, the right to vote in it is protected by the Fifteenth Amendment. Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649. And see United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299.

[ 339 U.S. Page 278]

     Under both Amendments discriminations based on race, creed or color fall beyond the pale.

Yet there is evidence in this case showing that Georgia's County Unit System of consolidating votes in primary elections makes an equally invidious discrimination. Under this primary law the nomination does not go to the candidate who gets the majority or plurality of votes. Votes are counted county by county. The winner in each county gets a designated number of votes ...


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