Williams v. Mississippi

Williams v. Mississippi, 170 U.S. 213 (1898) is a United States Supreme Court case that reviewed provisions of the state constitution that set requirements for voter registration. The Supreme Court did not find discrimination in the state's requirements for voters to pass a literacy test and pay poll taxes, as these were applied to all voters.

In practice, the subjective nature of literacy approval by white registrars worked to drastically decrease and essentially disfranchise African American voters.

The Court considered the new Mississippi constitution passed in 1890. It upheld disfranchisement clauses which established requirements for literacy tests and poll taxes paid retroactively from one's 21st birthday as prerequisites for voter registration. A grandfather clause effectively exempted illiterate whites, but not blacks, from the literacy test by relating qualifications to whether one's grandfather had voted before a certain date. Because the provisions applied to all potential voters, the Court upheld them, although in practice the provisions had discriminatory effects on African Americans.

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