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Dougherty County Bd. of Educ. v. White, 439 U.S. 32 (1978)

Dougherty County Board of Education v. White

No. 77-120

Argued October 2-3, 1978

Decided November 28, 1978

439 U.S. 32


Shortly after appellee, a Negro employee of the Dougherty County Board of Education, announced his candidacy for the Georgia House of Representatives, the Board adopted a requirement (Rule 58) that its employees take unpaid leaves of absence while campaigning for elective political office. As a consequence of Rule 58, appellee, who sought election to the Georgia House on three occasions, was forced to take leave, and lost over $11,000 in salary. When compelled to take his third leave of absence, appellee brought this action in District Court, alleging that Rule 58 was unenforceable because it had not been precleared under § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Act). Concluding that Rule 58 had the "potential for discrimination," the District Court enjoined its enforcement pending compliance with § 5.


1. Rule 58 is a "standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting" within the meaning of § 5 of the Act. Pp. 439 U. S. 36-43.

(a) Informed by the legislative history and the Attorney General's interpretation of § 5, this Court has consistently given the phrase "standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting" the "broadest possible scope," and has construed it to encompass any state enactments altering the election law of a covered State "in even a minor way," Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U. S. 544, 393 U. S. 566. Pp. 439 U. S. 37-40.

(b) Rule 58, like a filing fee, imposes substantial economic disincentives on employees who seek elective public office, and the circumstances surrounding its adoption and its effect on the political process suggest a potential for discrimination. Pp. 439 U. S. 40-43.

2. A county school board, although it does not itself conduct elections, is a political subdivision within the purview of the Act when it exercises control over the electoral process. United States v. Board of Comm'rs of Sheffield, 435 U. S. 110. Pp. 439 U. S. 43-47.

431 F.Supp. 919, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring statement, post, p. 439 U. S. 47. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting statement,

Page 439 U. S. 33

post, p. 439 U. S. 47. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST J., joined, post, p. 439 U. S. 47.

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