Morse v. Republican Party of Va., 517 U.S. 186 (1996)

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appeal from the united states district court for the western district of virginia

No. 94-203. Argued October 2, 1995—Decided March 27, 1996

Appellee Republican Party of Virginia (Party) invited all registered Virginia voters willing to declare their support for the Party's nominees at the 1994 general election to become delegates to a convention to nominate the Party's candidate for United States Senator upon payment of a registration fee. Appellants Bartholomew and Enderson desired, and were qualified, to become delegates, but were rejected because they refused to pay the fee; appellant Morse paid the fee with funds advanced by supporters of the eventual nominee. Alleging, inter alia, that the imposition of the fee violated 5 and 10 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, appellants filed a complaint seeking an injunction preventing the Party from imposing the fee and ordering it to return the fee paid by Morse. The three-judge District Court convened to consider the 5 and 10 claims granted the Party's motion to dismiss, concluding that the "general rule" that 5 covers political parties to the extent that they are empowered to conduct primary elections is inapplicable to the selection of nominating convention delegates under a regulation promulgated by the Attorney General of the United States and under this Court's summary decision in Williams v. Democratic Party of Georgia, 409 U. S. 809; and that only the Attorney General has authority to enforce 10.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. 853 F. Supp. 212, reversed and remanded.

Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Ginsburg, concluded: 1. The Party's decision to exact the registration fee was subject to 5, which, among other things, prohibits Virginia and other covered jurisdictions from enacting or enforcing "any voting qualification or prerequisite . . . different from that in force . . . on" a specified date unless the change has been precleared by the Attorney General. Pp. 193-229. (a) The District Court erred in its application of the Attorney General's regulation, which unambiguously requires 5 preclearance when a political party makes a change affecting voting if, inter alia, the party is "acting under authority explicitly or implicitly granted by a covered jurisdiction." Because Virginia law provides that the nominees of the

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