The Right to Vote in Local Elections: The Story of Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15
Joshua A. Douglas and Eugene D. Mazo (eds.), Election Law Stories (2016)
37 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2015 Last revised: 26 Apr 2019
Date Written: November 16, 2015
In 1965, New York had a statute on the books requiring residents to own taxable real property in their voting districts or else to have children enrolled in the district schools to vote in school board elections. The state defended its requirement on the grounds that it benefited those voters who were "most interested" in the running of the schools. Morris Kramer was a 31-year-old unwed stockbroker who lived with his parents, paid no rent, and had no children. He did not qualify to vote for his school board in New York, and he sued to invalidate the statute. In Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, 395 U.S. 621 (1969), the Supreme Court did just that, applying strict scrutiny and finding that it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Morris Kramer’s case is more than just a voting rights story. It is also an important local government story. And it is also an important community membership story. Kramer’s case urges us to reflect on the local political communities that we each inhabit, to consider who constitutes their membership, and to think about who should be given a say over their affairs. It is a story that asks us to contemplate the role that local communities play in each of our lives. This is the introduction for a chapter telling the behind-the-scenes history of Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, which was published in the Foundation Press book Election Law Stories (Joshua A. Douglas & Eugene D. Mazo eds. 2016).
Keywords: voting rights, voter qualifications, local government, the Warren Court, Fourteenth Amendment
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