2eliminating some elections entirely.
For example, there is nothing in the constitutional provisions cited above that prohibits the use of literacy tests, poll taxes in state elections, or property qualifications. One would be mistaken, however, to conclude that states are entirely freeto enact such measures.This Chapter will explore the ways in which statutes and court decisions have limited theability of states to control access to the voting booth. One of the foundational cases establishing aconstitutional right to vote
was the criminal case of
United States v. Classic
, 313 U.S. 299(1941). The defendants were Louisiana election commissioners who committed election fraud incounting and certifying the votes in a Democratic primary election to nominate a candidate for Congress. They were indicted for violating two federal statutes that made it a crime to violateothers’ constitutional rights. Accordingly, it was necessary for the Court to determine whether the Federal Constitution protected the right to a fair count of one’s vote in a primary election for the House of Representatives.The Court concluded that it did, despite the fact that the Constitution did not guarantee anyindividual the right to vote in the general election, let alone in the primary. The Court reasonedthat Article I, § 2 was designed “to secure to the people the right to choose representatives * * * by some form of election.”
. at 318. And because the primary occupied an important positionin the electoral mechanism that culminated in the general election, the right to vote in the primary was included within Article I, § 2 as well: “Where the state law has made the primary anintegral part of the procedure of choice [of representatives in Congress], or where in fact the primary effectively controls the choice, the right of the elector to have his ballot counted at the primary is likewise included in the right protected by Article I, § 2.”
havingtethered voting rights to the Constitution, the stage was set for the Court to reshape Americanelection law by defining those rights.Understanding court decisions expounding the rights to vote and participate in politicsrequires a familiarity with basic constitutional doctrine. The remainder of this section is presented as a refresher for students who need to be reminded of some concepts of constitutionallaw, and as a primer for students who have not yet studied equal protection and fundamentalrights in constitutional law.
See San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez
411 U.S. 1, 35 n.78 (1973) (“[T]he right to vote,
,is not a constitutionally protected right * * *.”);
Rodriguez v. Popular Democratic Party
, 457 U.S. 1 (1982)(upholding a law giving political parties the power to fill vacancies in the Puerto Rican legislature);
Valenti v. Rockefeller
, 393 U.S. 405 (1969) (
292 F. Supp. 851 (W.D.N.Y. 1968) (upholding alaw giving the governor power to fill vacancies in the U.S. senatorial delegation);
Fortson v. Morris
, 385 U.S. 231(1966) (upholding a provision of the Georgia Constitution authorizing the state legislature to choose the governor from among the two candidates receiving the greatest number of popular votes if no candidate received a majority).
Richard H. Pildes,
The Future of Voting Rights Policy: From Anti-Discrimination to the Right to Vote
. L.J. 741 (2006); Jamin Raskin,
A Right-to-Vote Amendment for the U.S. Constitution: Confronting America’s Structural Democracy Deficit
, 3 E
L.J. 559 (2004); Richard Briffault,
The Contested Right to Vote
. L. R
. 1506 (2002) (book review).
Or “manufactur[ing it] out of whole cloth.” Nathaniel Persily,
Forty Years in the Political Thicket: Judicial Reviewof the Redistricting Process Since
Reynolds v. Sims,
67, 71 (Thomas E. Mann & Bruce E. Cain eds., 2005).
Students who need a more thorough treatment of these issues should consult one of the excellent secondary sourceson constitutional law, including E
(3d ed. 2006); J
(3d ed. 2007); N
(3d ed. 2005); and L