Select Page

Election Law
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Macias, Steven J.

Election Law


Summer 2016

First Week (June 13-19)

Chapter One- Voting Qualifications

Constitutional Text:

Guarantee Clause, Art IV § 4
Time, Place, & Manner Clause – Art I § 4
House Electors Clause, Art I § 2, Cl. 1
Senate Electors Clause, Amdt XVII § I

15th Amendment

Sec 1: the right of citizens of the US to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the US or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude
Sec 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

Literacy Tests:

Demonstrates intelligence or knowledge
Guarantees knowledge of English
Assimilates immigrants into American political culture

Discriminatory administration
Too much executive discretion (read and understand)
Discriminatory motivation & impact

Lassiter v. Northampton County Bd of Elections – 1959- Rational Basis

Facts: appellant, black, applied to register as a voter in NC and was denied because she refused to submit to a literacy test as required by NC statute.(At this time Congress had not yet passed the VRA).
Court relied on Art I, Sec 2 and 17th amendment, which tie the qualifications for voting in congressional elections to qualifications for voting in state legislative elections, to uphold the state requirement.The court went on to say that literacy and illiteracy were race-neutral requirements for voting
This case also recognized the potential for a facially neutral test to be used in a racially discriminatory way, in violation of the 15th amendment.The court said in this case there was no evidence that NC was using the literacy test to discriminate on the basis of race

South Carolina v. Katzenbach – 1966 (literacy tests) – Rational Basis

Facts: SC (P) filed a complaint seeking declaration that sections 4 and 5 of the VRA of 1965 violate the Federal Constitution and asked for an injunction against the enforcement. The State argued that, among other things, the complained of provisions of the Act exceeded the powers of Congress and encroached on an area reserved to the states.
VRA did not apply uniformly across the country.The VRA provided remedies for states that fall under their coverage (mostly southern states) under a formula in section 4.Remedies include suspension of literacy tests and similar voting qualifications for a period of 5 years from the last occurrence of substantial voting discrimination.Section 5 prescribes a second remedy, the suspension of new voting regulations pending review by federal authorities to determine whether their use would perpetuate voting discrimination.A third remedy from section 6, 7, 9, & 13 is the assignment of federal examiners on certification by the Atty Gen to list qualified applicants who are entitled to vote in all elections.The remedial sections apply automatically to any state for which 2 findings have been made: (1) the Atty Gen has determined that on Nov 1, 1964, it maintained a test or device, and (2) the Director of the Census has determined that 50% of its voting age residents were registered on Nov 1, 64 or voted in the presidential election of Nov 1964. The test or device means: (1) demonstrate the ability to read, write, or understand, or interpret, (2) demonstrate any educational achievement or knowledge of a particular subject, (3) possess good moral character, or (4) prove his qualifications by the vouche of registered voters or members of any other class. Could suspend test for 5 years.
Court held sections 4 and 5 fell within Congress’ power to enforce the 15th amendment
The court found that Congress was not limited to forbidding violations of the Fifteenth Amendment in general terms and, as against the reserved powers of the states, Congress could use any rational means to effectuate the constitutional prohibition of racial discrimination in voting.
The court found that congress was justified in limiting the operation of the Act through the use of a formula to only a handful of states because the record indicated that actual voter discrimination occurred in these states.
The court found that the temporary suspension of voter qualifications, such as literacy tests, were not unconstitutional because the record indicated that such tests were traditionally used to disenfranchise minorities and their suspension was a legitimate response to the problem.
The court found that the suspension of new voter qualifications pending review was constitutional because the record indicated that states often enacted new laws to perpetuate discrimination in the face of adverse federal court decrees.
Section 5 of 14th amendment is the equivalent to sec 2 of the 15th amendment. The power of congress under both are equivalent
Prohibition of tests is an example of § 2 providing greater legislative power than what is prohibited under § 1.
Just because an action of a state is not prohibited under section 1 (substantive provision) doesn’t mean that congress can’t prevent the state from doing that.

Katzenbach v. Morgan – 1966 (Puerto Ricans literacy test)- Rational Basis

Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the Act) ensures the right to vote to all Puerto Ricans who successfully complete the sixth grade. The Appellees, Morgan and other registered voters in New York City (Appellees), brought this suit to challenge the constitutionality of Section:4(e) of the Act insofar as it pro tanto prohibits the enforcement of the election laws of New York requiring an ability to read and write English.
Whether such legislation is, as required by Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, appropriate to enforce equal protection?
Whether the congressional remedies adopted in Section:4(e) of the Act constitute means which are not prohibited by, but which are consistent with the constitution?
A federal law ensuring the right to vote upon successful completion of the sixth grade, despite a conflicting state law’s voting qualifications, is a valid exercise of the powers of the United States Congress by means of Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution because Section:5 is a positive grant of power.
Violates the EPC of the 14th amendment


24th amendment (1964)

Section 1: the right of citizens of the US to vote in any primary or other election for president or VP, for electors for President or VP, or for Senator, or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the US or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax
Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation
This only applies to federal elections for Pres, VP, Senator, Congressperson.Doesn’t apply to state elections

Harper v. VA State Bd. Of Elections (1966) (poll tax) – Strict Scrutiny

Virginia imposed an annual $1.50 poll tax on all residents over 21 years of age. The state made payment of this poll tax a precondition to voting.
Whether Virginia’s requirement of payment of a poll tax as a precondition to vote violates equal protection.
Rule of Law. Payment of a poll tax, as a precondition to vote, is a violation of equal protection. The right to vote is a fundamental right. Since the right to vote in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic political and civil rights, any alleged infringement of the right of citizens t

nterest bc policies of those elected affect you directly.
Local knowledge: More knowledgeable about local issues.
Fraud prevention: residency requirements help to prevent someone from going over to a neighboring community or state and casting a ballot to make sure a preferred party wins the election
Membership in the “political community”: closely related to subjective interest. Goes towards communal interest.If requirements imposed then perhaps there’s a better sense of community that develops

New Resident

Pope v. Williams (1904)- Rational Basis

Called into question by Carrington
Pre 19th, 23rd, 24th, 26th amendments
The right to vote wasn’t as clearly established here
Facts: MD 1 year declaration of residency rqmt. Pope never declared his intent
Mode of analysis

No fundamental right to vote in state elections (Macias says this case shows that the idea of the right to vote hadn’t evolved in light of the amendments that haven’t been passed yet at this time)
Court applies RB bc no suspect class here

Is the holding about the declaration rqmt or the 1 year residency rqmt?? Can a state make you require your intent to be a resident? Versus a time limit

Carrington v. Rash (1965)- Strict Scrutiny

TX law prohibited service members who moved to TX from voting during the term of their service
State interests, page 91- court says neither is a valid interest

Prevention of military personnel from overwhelming a locality

Fails to distinguish exclusion based upon bona fide residency and political/policy views
Court says have to distinguish an exclusion based on residency versus exclusion based on differing policy or political views
State just doesn’t like the way it imagines the military would vote in elections
Bottom p 91- TX has the right to require all be bona fide residents of the community.TX seems to be concerned about a large influx of military servicemen had interests that are contrary to local residents.Ex- ordinance outlawing strip clubs and military comes in and elects strip club friendly city council.

Court says it’s excluding people from the vote based on their policy or political views and court says the state cannot do.
State can require they be bona fide residents

Prevent infiltration from transients

Not narrowly tailored; requires individualized consideration
College students, long term hospital residents, and others might be transients but are not singled out have to prove on case by case basis.No reason why military can’t do the same.

The fear of how people are going to vote isn’t enough to justify excluding them from voting
Felons are carved out

Harlan’s Carrington Dissent

Dissented in Katzenbach v. Morgan, Harper, Kramer; and one person, one vote cases
Federalism demands rational basis review

The means-end fit is good enough
Voluntary v forced residency
Civilian control of the military