By: Gordon Dobbs
In many states, people who live just outside of a city’s borders and who are affected by the city’s laws are nevertheless forbidden from voting in the city’s elections. The Supreme Court considered whether this practice is constitutional in 1978 in the case of Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa. In Holt, the Court held that extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) statutes that extend municipal police, sanitary, business, and other similar regulatory powers over those living outside municipal boundaries are indeed constitutional, even when those residents cannot vote in municipal elections. The Court held that those who lived outside of Tuscaloosa’s borders had no constitutional right to vote in Tuscaloosa elections, and that it was reasonable for the city of Tuscaloosa to extend certain services to those residents and require them to pay fees to fund those services. This form of ETJ has its roots in post-World War II development booms on the fringes of urban areas in the United States. Some states have been fairly aggressive in their implementation of ETJ: Texas, for instance, allows cities of over 100,000 to extend their ETJ for five miles outside of the city’s boundaries, and cities have used this power to regulate everything from lot size to fireworks use in the county.