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U.S. Supreme Court

McDonald v. Board of Election Comm'rs, 394 U.S. 802 (1969)

McDonald v. Board of Election Commissioners

No. 68

Argued November 19, 1968

Decided April 28, 1969

394 U.S. 802


Appellants are qualified Cook County electors who are unsentenced inmates of the Cook County jail awaiting trial. They allege that Illinois' failure to include them among the classes of persons entitled to absentee ballots violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court granted summary judgment for appellees holding that extending absentee ballots to those physically incapacitated for medical reasons constituted a proper and reasonable classification not violative of equal protection.

Held: Illinois' failure to provide absentee ballots for appellants does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 394 U. S. 806-811.

(a) While classifications "which might invade or restrain [voting rights] must be closely scrutinized and carefully confined," a more exacting judicial scrutiny is not necessary here, since the distinctions made by Illinois' absentee voting provisions are not drawn on the basis of wealth or race, Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U. S. 663, and there is nothing in the record to show that Illinois has precluded appellants from voting. Pp. 394 U. S. 806-808.

(b) A state legislature traditionally has been allowed to take reform "one step at a time," and need not run the risk of losing its entire remedial scheme (here absentee voting) because it failed to cover every group that might have been included. Pp. 394 U. S. 809, 394 U. S. 811.

(c) Since there is nothing to show that the judicially incapacitated appellants are absolutely prohibited from voting, it is reasonable for Illinois to treat differently the physically handicapped. Pp. 394 U. S. 809-810.

(d) Constitutional safeguards are not offended by the different treatment accorded unsentenced inmates incarcerated within and those incarcerated without their counties of residence. P. 394 U. S. 810.

277 F.Supp. 14, affirmed.

Page 394 U. S. 803

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