Gomillion v. Lightfoot

Gomillion v. Lightfoot

Gomillion v. Lightfoot
Argued October 18–19, 1960
Decided November 14, 1960
Full case name Gomillion et al. v. Lightfoot, Mayor of Tuskegee, et al.
Citations 364 U.S. 339 (more)
364 U.S. 339; 81 S. Ct. 125; 5 L. Ed. 2d 110; 1960 U.S. LEXIS 189
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Electoral district boundaries drawn only to disenfranchise blacks violate the Fifteenth Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Frankfurter, joined by Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart
Concurrence Whittaker
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XV

Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960), was a United States Supreme Court decision that found an electoral district created to disenfranchise blacks violated the Fifteenth Amendment.


  • Decision 1
  • Whittaker's Concurrence 2
  • Subsequent history 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In this landmark voting rights case, the Supreme Court was faced with the question of whether or not Act 140 of the Alabama legislature violated the Fifteenth Amendment. Alabama passed Act 140 in 1957, which changed the boundaries of the city of Tuskegee, Alabama. It had previously been a square but the legislature redrew it as a 28 sided figure, excluding all but a handful of potential African-American votes. Justice Frankfurter issued the opinion of the Court, which held that the Act did violate the provision of the 15th Amendment prohibiting states from denying anyone their right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. As he said in his concurring opinion, Justice Whitaker would have struck it down under the equal protection clause, which is what the Court later did in Baker v. Carr.

Whittaker's Concurrence

This case should be examined under the Equal Protection Clause, not the 15th Amendment.

Just because someone has been redistricted to vote in another district does not automatically mean his rights have been denied. It is not a right to vote in a particular jurisdiction. But in this case, completely fencing African American citizens out of a district is an unlawful segregation of black citizens and a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause.[1]

Subsequent history

In the 1980 case Mobile v. Bolden, the court limited its holding in Gomillion so that racially discriminatory effect and intent would be necessary to prompt intervention by federal courts for violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

However, Congress effectively negated Bolden in 1982 when it amended Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. Congress' amendments returned the law to the pre-Bolden interpretation, under which violations of Section 2 did not require a showing of racially discriminatory intent.

See also


  1. ^ Issacharoff, Samuel (2007). The Law of Democracy. Foundation Press.  

External links

  • ^ 364 U.S. 339 (Text of the opinion on Findlaw.com)