Nixon v. Condon, 286 U.S. 73; 52 S. Ct. 484; 76 L. Ed. 984 (1932)

Facts—The African American petitioner brought this action against judges of a primary election in Texas for their refusal to allow him to vote by reason of his race or color. This was the second time Nixon had been denied the opportunity to vote. The first time the Supreme Court ruled a Texas statute denying the right of an African American to vote in a party primary was void. (See Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536 [1927].) Texas then passed a new statute stating that the state executive committee of each party should determine who can vote in primaries. Under this statute, the Democratic Party executive committee adopted a resolution allowing only white persons to vote in its party primary.

Question—Does the Texas statute vesting the state executive committee of each party with the power to determine who can vote in its primaries violate the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsJ. Cardozo (5–4). “The test is not whether the members of the executive committee are the representatives of the state in the strict sense in which an agent is the representative of his principal. The test is whether they are to be classified as representatives of the state to such an extent and in such a sense that the great restraints of the Constitution set limits to their action.” The new statute placed the power in an executive committee, and thus the action was really state action and not private action, and was therefore subject to the limitations of the Fourteenth Amendment.

J. McReynolds’s dissent portrayed the Texas Democratic Committee as a private organization and therefore not covered by provisions in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments covering discriminatory state actions.

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