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Breedlove v. Suttles

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Significance: The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state's poll tax that did not treat all people equally.


A Georgia law levied a poll tax of one dollar per year on all people between the ages of twenty-one and sixty, except for the blind and women who had not registered to vote. Payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voter registration. A white male citizen asserted that the law was an invidious discrimination, contrary to the principles of the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the claim. In the opinion for the Court, Justice Pierce Butler declared that the exclusions from tax liability were reasonable in view of the special circumstances of the exempted groups. Butler also noted that the use of poll taxes as a condition for voting had long been accepted in U.S. traditions. The Breedlove decision was overturned in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (1966).