WASHINGTON -- The supreme court ruled today, 8 to 1, that negroes have a constitutional right to vote in state primary elections.
The court's opinion was delivered by Justice Stanley Reed. Justice Owen J. Roberts dissented.
The ruling: specifically involved the right of negroes to vote in Texas primaries. Lonnie E, Smith, a Houston negro, charged that the Democratic party in Texas has been denying suffrage to negroes in violation of the. federal constitution "solely because of race color."
Smith sued two-Harris county election judges who, he charged, refused to accept his ballot as a qualifier voter in 1940 democratic primaries the nomination of federal, state and local officers. Smith asked for damages and a declaratory judgment affirming the right of negroes to vote in "exas primaries.
The federal district court at Houston rejected Smith's arguments on the grounds that the Texas primaries were "political party affairs" and not subject to federal control. The federal appeals court at New Orleans also upheld the local election officials -- S.E. Allright and James E. Liuzza.
The dispute was twice argued before the supreme court. Attorneys for Smith contended that the Texas primaries were not only an integral part, but the controlling factor in elections, and that to deny negroes participation was to deny them the right to vote.
The State of Texas participated when the case was argued the second time. Assistant Texas Attorney General George W. Barcus asserted that the constitution gives the white Democrats of Texas the privilege to assemble and choose the membership of a political party or other organization for the furtherance of their beliefs.
Reed, in announcing today's decision, said the court overruled its own previous doctrine that the Democratic party as a private organization had the right to make rules on who should vote in the Texas primaries. The state itself, the held then, had made no law constitutional voting rights of negroes.
Reed said the court was now exercising its established power to re-examine constitution questions "where correction depends upon amendment and not upon legislative action."
Since its former decision, Reed said, the court has decided that primaries are a part of federal elections and therefore subject to federal control. This ruling was handed down in a Louisiana case.