Allen v. State Board of Elections

In Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U. S. 544, 565 (1969), the Court noted that the Attorney General stated in hearings in the House that two or three types of changes, such as changing from paper ballots to voting machines, could be specifically excluded from 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 without undermining its purpose. The Supreme Court found it significant that "Congress chose not to include even these minor exceptions in 5, thus indicating an intention that all changes, no matter how small, be subjected to 5 scrutiny." 393 U. S., at 568. Relying heavily on the statutory definition of voting as encompassing "`all action necessary to make a vote effective,' " 393 U. S., at 565-566, and the broad remedial purposes of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Court held that a change from district to at-large voting for county supervisors, a change that made an important county office appointive rather than elective, and a change that altered the requirements for independent candidates, were all covered voting practices. Id., at 569-571. Thus, 5 was not limited to changes directly affecting the casting of a ballot. Id. , at 569 ("The right to vote can be affected by a dilution of voting power as well as by an absolute prohibition on casting a ballot. See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 555 (1964)"). Nothing in Allen implied that the Court had defined an exhaustive category of changes covered by the Act. On the contrary, the Court described 5 as "aimed at the subtle, as well as the obvious, state regulations which have the effect of denying citizens their right to vote because of their race," id., at 565, and expressed, in no uncertain terms, that 5 should be given "the broadest possible scope," id., at 567. Aware of the consequences of its decision, the Court gave its broad reading of the Act "only prospective effect." Id., at 572.