Oregon v. Mitchell/Concurrence-dissent Brennan

Oregon v. Mitchell
Concurring/Dissenting Opinion by William J. Brennan
Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Separate Opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, MR. JUSTICE WHITE, and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL dissent from the judgments insofar as they declare § 302 unconstitutional as applied to state and local elections, and concur in the judgments in all other respects, for the following reasons.

These cases draw into question the power and judgment of Congress in enacting Titles II and III of the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970, 84 Stat. 314. The State of Arizona challenges the power of Congress to impose a nationwide ban, until August 6, 1975, on the use of literacy and certain other tests to limit the franchise in any election. The State of Idaho takes issue with the asserted congressional power to find that the imposition of a durational residence requirement to deny the right to vote in elections for President and Vice President imposes a burden upon the right of free interstate [p230] migration that is not necessary to further a compelling state interest. [1] Finally, the States of Oregon, Texas, Arizona, and Idaho would have us strike down as unreasonable and beyond congressional power the findings, embodied in § 301(a) of the Amendments, that denying the vote to otherwise qualified persons 18 to 21 years of age, while granting it to those 21 years of age and older, violates the Equal Protection Clause and is, in any event, not reasonably related to any compelling state interest. [2] In Nos. 43, Orig., and 44, Orig., Oregon and Texas have invoked our original jurisdiction under Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution to restrain the Attorney General of the United States, a citizen of New York, from enforcing the 18-year-old voting provisions of the Amendments. [p231] South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 307 (1966). In Nos. 46, Orig., and 47, Orig., the United States seeks orders enjoining Arizona from enforcing age and literacy limitations on the franchise, [3] and enjoining Idaho from enforcing age, residence, and absentee voting limitations, [4] insofar as those limitations are inconsistent with the 1970 Amendments. Original jurisdiction, again, is founded upon Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution. See United States v. California, 332 U.S. 19, 22 (1947). Since, in our view, congressional power to enact the challenged Amendments is found in the enforcement clauses of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and since we may easily perceive a rational basis for the congressional judgments underlying each of them, we would deny relief in Nos. 43, Orig., and 44, Orig., and issue the requested orders in Nos. 46, Orig., and 47, Orig.


The Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 438, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq. (1964 ed., Supp. V), proscribed the use of any "test or device," [5] including literacy tests, in States [p232] or their political subdivisions that fell within a coverage formula set forth in § 4(b) of the 1965 Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973b(a), (b) (1964 ed., Supp. V). Although we had previously concluded that literacy tests, fairly administered, violate neither the Fourteenth nor the Fifteenth Amendment, Lassiter v. Northampton Election Board, 360 U.S. 45 (1959), we nevertheless upheld their selective proscription by Congress. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966). Canvassing the "voluminous" legislative history of the 1965 Act, we found ample basis for a legislative conclusion that such a proscription was necessary to combat the "insidious and pervasive evil" of racial discrimination with regard to voting. Id. at 308-315. Accordingly, we held the proscription to be well within the power of Congress granted by § 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment. Id. at 327-334. Three years later, in Gaston County v. United States, 395 U.S. 285 (1969), we sustained application of the ban on literacy tests to a county where there was no evidence that the test itself was discriminatory or that — at least since 1962 [6] — it had been administered in a discriminatory manner. Notwithstanding this fact, we noted that the record did contain substantial evidence that, in years past, "Gaston County [had] systematically deprived its black citizens of the educational opportunities it granted to its white citizens." Id. at 297. Since this "in turn deprived them of an equal chance to pass the literacy test," id. at 291, even impartial administration of an impartial test would inevitably result in just the discrimination that Congress [p233] and the Fifteenth Amendment had sought to proscribe. Id. at 296-297; see South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. at 308, 333-334.

No challenge is made in the present cases either to the 1965 Act or to the five-year extension of its ban on "tests or devices" embodied in Title I of the 1970 Amendments. Arizona does, however, challenge § 201 of the Amendments, which extends (until August 6, 1975) the 1965 Act's selective ban on the use of "tests or devices" to all States and political subdivisions in which it is not already in force by virtue of the 1965 Act. In substance, Arizona argues that it is and has been providing education of equal quality for all its citizens; that its literacy test is both fair and fairly administered; and that there is no evidence in the legislative record upon which Congress could have relied to reach a contrary conclusion. It urges that, to the extent that any citizens of Arizona have been denied the right to vote because of illiteracy resulting from discriminatory governmental practices, the unlawful discrimination has been by governments other than the State of Arizona or its political subdivisions. Arizona, it suggests, should not have its laws overridden to cure discrimination on the part of governmental bodies elsewhere in the country.

We need not question Arizona's assertions as to the nondiscriminatory character, past and present, of its educational system. Congressional power to remedy the evils resulting from state-sponsored racial discrimination does not end when the subject of that discrimination removes himself from the jurisdiction in which the injury occurred.

The Constitution was framed under the dominion of a political philosophy less parochial in range. It was framed upon the theory that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that, in the long run, prosperity and salvation are in union, and not division.

Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc., 294 U.S. [p234] 511, 523 (1935); see Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 173-176 (1941). In upholding the suspension of literacy tests as applied to Gaston County under the 1965 Act, we could see "no legal significance" in the possibility that adult residents of the county might have received their education "in other counties or States also maintaining segregated and unequal school systems." Gaston County v. United States, 395 U.S. at 293 n. 9. [7] The legislative history of the 1970 Amendments contains substantial information upon which Congress could have based a finding that the use of literacy tests in Arizona and in other States where their use was not proscribed by the 1965 Act has the effect of denying the vote to racial minorities whose illiteracy is the consequence of a previous, governmentally sponsored denial of equal educational opportunity. The Attorney General of Arizona told the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights that many older Indians in the State were "never privileged to attend a formal school." [8] Extensive testimony before both Houses indicated that racial minorities have long received inferior educational opportunities throughout the United States. [9] And interstate [p235] migration of such persons, particularly of Negroes from the Southern States, has long been a matter of common knowledge. [10]

Moreover, Congress was given testimony explicitly relating the denial of educational opportunity to inability to pass literacy tests in States not covered by the formula contained in the 1965 Act. The United States Commission on Civil Rights reported a survey of the Northern and Western States which concluded that literacy tests have a negative impact upon voter registration which "falls most heavily on blacks and persons of Spanish surname." [11] With regard specifically to Arizona, the Chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council testified that a greater percentage of Navajos are registered in New Mexico, which has no literacy test, than in Arizona. [12]

In short, there is no question but that Congress could legitimately have concluded that the use of literacy tests anywhere within the United States has the inevitable effect of denying the vote to members of racial minorities whose inability to pass such tests is the direct consequence of previous governmental discrimination in education. Almost five years ago, we found in § 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment an ample grant of legislative power for Congress to decree a selective proscription of such tests in certain portions of the country. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. at 327-334. We have since held that power ample to cover the proscription of fair literacy tests, fairly administered, which [p236] nevertheless operate to disenfranchise racial minorities because of previous governmental discrimination against them in education. Gaston County v. United States, 395 U.S. at 287, 289-293. Five years of experience with the 1965 Act persuaded Congress that a nationwide ban on literacy and other potentially discriminatory tests was necessary to prevent racial discrimination in voting throughout the country. That conclusion is amply supported in the legislative record and § 201 of the 1970 Amendments is accordingly well within the scope of congressional power.


Section 202 of the 1970 Amendments abolishes all durational state residence requirements restricting the right to vote in presidential elections. In their place, Congress has undertaken to prescribe a uniform nationwide system of registration and absentee voting designed to allow all otherwise qualified persons to vote in such elections regardless of the length of time they have lived in a particular jurisdiction. [13] The States are required to keep open their registration rolls for presidential elections until 30 days preceding the election. § 202(d). Persons who have changed their residence within 30 days of the election are, if otherwise qualified, entitled to vote either in person or by absentee ballot in the State of their previous residence, § 202(e), and the States are compelled to permit the casting of absentee ballots by all properly qualified persons who have made application not less than seven days prior to the election, and returned the ballot to the appropriate officials not later than the closing of polls on election day. §§ 202(b), (d). Provision must also be made by the States to allow absentee registration. § 202(f). [p237]

Idaho challenges the power of Congress to enact such legislation insofar as it conflicts with Idaho's statutory and constitutional provisions regarding durational residence requirements for voting; regarding absentee voting; and regarding absentee registration. [14] The State's argument in brief is that the Constitution has left to the States the power to set qualifications for voters in both state and federal elections, subject only to certain explicit limitations such as, for example, those imposed by the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-fourth Amendments. Admitting that unreasonable residence requirements may not withstand judicial scrutiny, Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89 (1965), Idaho urges that its 60-day residence requirement is necessary for protection against fraud, and for administrative purposes. In consequence, § 202 of the 1970 Amendments is said to be of no weight against these compelling state interests.

Whether or not the Constitution vests Congress with particular power to set qualifications for voting in strictly federal elections, [15] we believe there is an adequate constitutional basis for § 202 in § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. For more than a century, this Court has recognized the constitutional right of all citizens to unhindered interstate travel and settlement. Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 492 (1849) (Taney, C.J.); Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wall. 35, 43-44 (1868); Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 180 (1869); Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941); United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 757-758 (1966); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629-631, 634 (1969). From whatever constitutional provision this right may be said to flow, [16] both its existence [p238] and its fundamental importance to our Federal Union have long been established beyond question.

By definition, the imposition of a durational residence requirement operates to penalize those persons, and only those persons, who have exercised their constitutional right of interstate migration. Of course, governmental action that has the incidental effect of burdening the exercise of a constitutional right is not, ipso facto, unconstitutional. But in such a case, governmental action may withstand constitutional scrutiny only upon a clear showing that the burden imposed is necessary to protect a compelling and substantial governmental interest. Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. at 634; United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570, 582-583 (1968); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 406-409 (1963). And once it be determined that a burden has been placed upon a constitutional right, the onus of demonstrating that no less intrusive means will adequately protect compelling state interests is upon the party seeking to justify the burden. See Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 525-526 (1958).

In the present case, Congress has explicitly found both that the imposition of durational residence requirements abridges the right of free interstate migration and that such requirements are not reasonably related to any compelling state interests. 1970 Amendments, §§ 202(a)(2), (6). The latter finding was made with full cognizance of the possibility of fraud and administrative difficulty. Senator Goldwater, testifying at Senate hearings on the bill, pointed out that 40 States presently allow registration until 30 days or less prior to the election. [17] Idaho itself allows registration by those desiring to vote as new residents in presidential elections within 10 days of balloting. Idaho Code § 34-409 (1963). And Idaho's assertion of the administrative unfeasibility [p239] of maintaining separate registration lists for fully qualified voters and for those qualified only for presidential balloting is difficult to credit in light of the fact that the Idaho Constitution, Art. 6, § 2, itself sets separate qualifications for voting in general and in presidential elections. The provisions for absentee voting, as Senator Goldwater pointed out on the floor of the Senate, were likewise "drawn from the proven practice of the States themselves." [18] Thirty-seven States allow application within a week of the election, and 40 permit the marked ballot to be returned on election day. [19] Finally, Idaho has provided no evidence beyond the mere assertion that the scheme of § 202 is inadequate to protect against fraud. But the only kind of fraud asserted is the possibility of dual voting, and Idaho has provided no explanation why the 30-day period between the closing of new registrations and the date of election would not provide, in light of modern communications, adequate time to insure against such frauds. Accordingly, we find ample justification for the congressional conclusion that § 202 is a reasonable means for eliminating an unnecessary burden on the right of interstate migration. United States v. Guest, supra.


The final question presented by these cases is the propriety of Title III of the 1970 Amendments, which [p240] forbids the States from disenfranchising persons over the age of 18 because of their age. Congress was of the view that this prohibition, embodied in § 302 of the Amendments, was necessary among other reasons in order to enforce the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See §§ 301(a)(2), (b). The States involved in the present litigation question the assertion of congressional power to make that judgment.

It is important at the outset to recognize what is not involved in these cases. We are not faced with an assertion of congressional power to regulate any and all aspects of state and federal elections, or even to make general rules for the determination of voter qualifications. Nor are we faced with the assertion that Congress is possessed of plenary power to set minimum ages for voting throughout the States. Every State in the Union has conceded by statute that citizens 21 years of age and over are capable of intelligent and responsible exercise of the right to vote. The single, narrow question presented by these cases is whether Congress was empowered to conclude, as it did, that citizens 18 to 21 years of age are not substantially less able.

We believe there is serious question whether a statute granting the franchise to citizens 21 and over while denying it to those between the ages of 18 and 21 could, in any event, withstand present scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Regardless of the answer to this question, however, it is clear to us that proper regard for the special function of Congress in making determinations of legislative fact compels this Court to respect those determinations unless they are contradicted by evidence far stronger than anything that has been adduced in these cases. We would uphold § 302 as a valid exercise of congressional power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. [p241]


All parties to these cases are agreed that the States are given power, under the Constitution, to determine the qualifications for voting in state elections. Art. I, § 2; Lassiter v. Northampton Election Board, 360 U.S. 45, 50 (1959); Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, 91 (1965). But it is now settled that exercise of this power, like all other exercises of state power, is subject to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Carrington v. Rash, supra; Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966); Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. 621 (1969); Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419 (1970). Although it once was thought that equal protection required only that a given legislative classification, once made, be evenly applied, see Hayes v. Missouri, 120 U.S. 68, 71-72 (1887), for more than 70 years we have consistently held that the classifications embodied in a state statute must also meet the requirements of equal protection. Gulf, C. & S. F. R. Co. v. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150, 155 (1897); see McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 189-191 (1964), and cases cited.

The right to vote has long been recognized as a "fundamental political right, because preservative of all rights." Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370 (1886); see Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 562 (1964); Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 31 (1968).

Any unjustified discrimination in determining who may participate in political affairs . . . undermines the legitimacy of representative government.

Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 626. Consequently, when exclusions from the franchise are challenged as violating the Equal Protection Clause, judicial scrutiny is not confined to the question whether the exclusion may reasonably be thought to further a permissible interest of the State. [p242] Cf. Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. 580, 583-584 (1935). "A more exacting standard obtains." Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 633. In such cases, "the Court must determine whether the exclusions are necessary to promote a compelling state interest." Id. at 627; Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 704 (1969).

In the present cases, the States justify exclusion of 18- to 21-year-olds from the voting rolls solely on the basis of the States' interests in promoting intelligent and responsible exercise of the franchise. [20] There is no reason to question the legitimacy and importance of these interests. But standards of intelligence and responsibility, however defined, may permissibly be applied only to the means whereby a prospective voter determines how to exercise his choice, and not to the actual choice itself. Were it otherwise, such standards could all too easily serve as mere epithets designed to cloak the exclusion of a class of voters simply because of the way they might vote. Cf. Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. at 422-423. Such a state purpose is, of course, constitutionally impermissible. Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. at 94. We must, therefore, examine with particular care the asserted connection between age limitations and the admittedly laudable state purpose to further intelligent and responsible voting.

We do not lack a starting point for this inquiry. Although the question has never been squarely presented, we have in the past indicated that age is a factor not necessarily irrelevant to qualifications for voting. Lassiter [p243] v. Northampton Election Board, 360 U.S. at 51; Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 625-626. But recognition that age is not in all circumstances a "capricious or irrelevant factor," Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. at 668, does not insure the validity of the particular limitation involved here. Evans v. Cornman, 38 U.S. at 425-426. Every State in the Union has concluded for itself that citizens 21 years of age and over are capable of responsible and intelligent voting. Accepting this judgment, there remains the question whether citizens 18 to 21 years of age may fairly be said to be less able.

State practice itself in other areas casts doubt upon any such proposition. Each of the 50 States has provided special mechanisms for dealing with persons who are deemed insufficiently mature and intelligent to understand, and to conform their behavior to, the criminal laws of the State. [21] Forty-nine of the States have concluded that, in this regard, 18-year-olds are invariably to be dealt with according to precisely the same standards prescribed for their elders. [22] This at the very least is evidence of a nearly unanimous legislative judgment on the part of the States themselves that differences in maturity and intelligence between 18-year-olds and persons 21 years of age and over are too trivial to warrant specialized treatment for any of the former class in the critically important matter of criminal responsibility. [23] Similarly, [p244] every State permits 18-year-olds to marry, and 39 States do not require parental consent for such persons of one or both sexes. [24] State statutory practice in other areas follows along these lines, albeit not as consistently. [25]

Uniform state practice in the field of education points the same way. No State in the Union requires attendance at school beyond the age of 18. Of course, many 18-year-olds continue their education to 21 and beyond. But no 18-year-old who does not do so will be disenfranchised thereby once he reaches the age of 21. [26] [p245] Whether or not a State could in any circumstances condition exercise of the franchise upon educational achievements beyond the level reached by 18-year-olds today, there is no question but that no State purports to do so. Accordingly, that 18-year-olds as a class may be less educated than some of their elders [27] cannot justify restriction of the franchise, for the States themselves have determined that this incremental education is irrelevant to voting qualifications. And finally, we have been cited to no material whatsoever that would support the proposition that intelligence, as opposed to educational attainment, increases between the ages of 18 and 21.

One final point remains. No State seeking to uphold its denial of the franchise to 18-year-olds has adduced anything beyond the mere difference in age. We have already indicated that the relevance of this difference is contradicted by nearly uniform state practice in other areas. But perhaps more important is the uniform experience of those States — Georgia since 1943, and Kentucky since 1955 — that have permitted 18-year-olds to vote. [28] We have not been directed to a word of testimony or other evidence that would indicate either that 18-year-olds in those States have voted any less intelligently and responsibly than their elders, or that there is any reasonable ground for belief that 18-year-olds in other States are less able than those in Georgia and Kentucky. On the other hand, every person who spoke to the issue in either the House or Senate was agreed that 18-year-olds [p246] in both States were at least as interested, able, and responsible in voting as were their elders. [29]

In short, we are faced with an admitted restriction upon the franchise, supported only by bare assertions and long practice, in the face of strong indications that the States themselves do not credit the factual propositions upon which the restriction is asserted to rest. But there is no reason for us to decide whether, in a proper case, we would be compelled to hold this restriction a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. For, as our decisions have long made clear, the question we face today is not one of judicial power under the Equal Protection Clause. The question is the scope of congressional power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. To that question we now turn.


As we have often indicated, questions of constitutional power frequently turn in the last analysis on questions of fact. This is particularly the case when an assertion of state power is challenged under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. For although equal protection require that all persons "under like circumstances and conditions" be treated alike, Hayes v. Missouri, 120 U.S. at 71, such a formulation merely raises, but does not answer the question whether a legislative classification has resulted in different treatment of persons who are in fact, "under like circumstances and conditions."

Legislatures, as well as courts, are bound by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 18-20 (1958). When a state legislative classification is subjected to judicial challenge as violating the Equal Protection Clause, it comes before the [p247] courts cloaked by the presumption that the legislature has, as it should, acted within constitutional limitations. Kotch v. Board of River Port Pilots, 330 U.S. 552, 556, 563-564 (1947); see Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 627-628. Accordingly,

[a] statutory discrimination will not be set aside as the denial of equal protection of the laws if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it.

Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. at 584. [30]

But, as we have consistently held, this limitation on judicial review of state legislative classifications is a limitation stemming not from the Fourteenth Amendment itself, but from the nature of judicial review. It is simply a "salutary principle of judicial decision," Metropolitan Cas. Co. v. Brownell, supra, at 584, one of the "self-imposed restraints intended to protect [the Court] and the state against irresponsible exercise of [the Court's] unappealable power." Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261, 282 (1947). The nature of the judicial process makes it an inappropriate forum for the determination [p248] of complex factual questions of the kind so often involved in constitutional adjudication. Courts, therefore, will overturn a legislative determination of a factual question only if the legislature's finding is so clearly wrong that it may be characterized as "arbitrary," "irrational," or "unreasonable." Communist Party v. Control Board, 367 U.S. 1"]367 U.S. 1, 94-95 (1961); 367 U.S. 1, 94-95 (1961); United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152-154 (1938); Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. at 583-584.

Limitations stemming from the nature of the judicial process, however, have no application to Congress. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that "[t]he Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." Should Congress, pursuant to that power, undertake an investigation in order to determine whether the factual basis necessary to support a state legislative discrimination actually exists, it need not stop once it determines that some reasonable men could believe the factual basis exists. Section 5 empowers Congress to make its own determination on the matter. See Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641, 654-656 (1966). It should hardly be necessary to add that, if the asserted factual basis necessary to support a given state discrimination does not exist, § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment vests Congress with power to remove the discrimination by appropriate means. Id. at 656-657; Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. at 282-283; Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 347-348 (1880).

The scope of our review in such matters has been established by a long line of consistent decisions. "It is not for the courts to reexamine the validity of these legislative findings and reject them." Communist Party v. Control Board, 367 U.S. at 94.

[W]here we find that the legislators, in light of the facts and testimony before them, have a rational basis for finding a chosen regulatory [p249] scheme necessary . . . our investigation is at an end.

Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 303-304 (1964); Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. at 653; see Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522, 529 (1954). [31]

This scheme is consistent with our prior decisions in related areas. The core of dispute over the constitutionality of Title III of the 1970 Amendments is a conflict between state and federal legislative determinations of the factual issues upon which depends decision of a federal constitutional question — the legitimacy, under the Equal Protection Clause, of state discrimination against persons between the ages of 18 and 21. Our cases have repeatedly emphasized that, when state and federal claims come into conflict, the primacy of federal power requires that the federal finding of fact control. See England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, 375 U.S. 411, 415-417 (1964); Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 311-312 (1963); Tarble's Case, 13 Wall. 397, 406-407 (1872); cf. United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 119 (1941). The Supremacy Clause requires an identical result when the conflict is one of legislative, not judicial, findings.

Finally, it is no answer to say that Title III intrudes upon a domain reserved to the States — the power to set qualifications for voting. It is no longer open to question that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to this, as to any other, exercise of state power. Kramer v. [p250] Union School District, supra, and cases cited. As we said in answer to a similar contention almost a century ago,

the Constitution now expressly gives authority for congressional interference and compulsion in the cases embraced within the Fourteenth Amendment. It is but a limited authority, true, extending only to a single class of cases; but within its limits it is complete.

Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. at 347-348.


Our Brother HARLAN has set out in some detail the historical evidence that persuades him that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment did not believe that the Equal Protection Clause, either through judicial action or through congressional enforcement under § 5 of the Amendment, could operate to enfranchise Negroes in States that denied them the vote. Ante at 154-200. From this, he has concluded

that the Fourteenth Amendment was never intended to restrict the authority of the States to allocate their political power as they see fit, and therefore that it does not authorize Congress to set voter qualifications in either state or federal elections.

Ante at 154. This conclusion, if accepted, would seem to require as a corollary that, although States may not, under the Fifteenth Amendment, discriminate against Negro voters, they are free, so far as the Federal Constitution is concerned, to discriminate against Negro or unpopular candidates in any way they desire. Not surprisingly, our Brother HARLAN's thesis is explicitly disavowed by all the States party to the present litigation, [32] and has been presented to us only in the briefs amici [p251] curiae of Virginia and, perhaps, Mississippi. [33] We could not accept this thesis even if it were supported by historical evidence far stronger than anything adduced here today. But, in our view, our Brother HARLAN's historical analysis is flawed by his ascription of 20th-century meanings to the words of 19th-century legislators. In consequence, his analysis imposes an artificial simplicity upon a complex era, and presents, as universal, beliefs that were held by merely one of several groups competing for political power. We can accept neither his judicial conclusion nor his historical premise that the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment left it within the power of the States to deny the vote to Negro citizens.

It is clear that the language of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids a State to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," applies on its face to all assertions of state power, however made. More than 40 years ago, this Court faced for the first time the question whether a State could deny Negroes the right to vote in primary elections. Writing for a unanimous Court, Mr. Justice Holmes observed tartly that

[w]e find it unnecessary to consider the Fifteenth Amendment, because it seems to us hard to imagine a more direct and obvious infringement of the Fourteenth.

Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536, 540-541 (1927); see Nixon v. Condon, 286 U.S. 73, 83, 87-89 (1932) (Cardozo, J.); Anderson v. Martin, 375 U.S. 399 (1964); cf. Raymond v. Chicago Union Traction Co., 207 U.S. 20, 35-36 (1907). If the broad language of the Equal Protection Clause were to be read as nevertheless allowing the States to deny equal political rights to any citizens they see fit to exclude from the political process, [p252] far more is involved than merely shifting the doctrinal basis of such cases as Nixon v. Herndon from the Fourteenth to the Fifteenth Amendment. For the Fifteenth Amendment applies only to voting, not to the holding of public office; in consequence, our Brother HARLAN's view would appear to leave the States free to encourage citizens to cast their votes solely on the basis of race (a practice found to violate the Fourteenth Amendment in Anderson v. Martin, supra), or even presumably to deny Negro citizens the right to run for office at all. [34] We cannot believe that the Equal Protection Clause would permit such discrimination.

In any event, it seems to us, the historical record will not bear the weight our Brother HARLAN has placed upon it. His examination of the historical background of the Fourteenth Amendment leads him to conclude that it is

clear beyond any reasonable doubt that no part of the legislation now under review can be upheld as a legitimate exercise of congressional power under that Amendment,

ante at 155, because the Amendment was not intended "to restrict the authority of the States to allocate their political power as they see fit." Ante at 154. Our own reading of the historical background, on the other hand, results in a somewhat imperfect picture of an era of constitutional confusion, confusion that the Amendment did little to resolve. As the leading constitutional historian of the Civil War has observed, constitutional law was characterized during the war years by "a noticeable lack of legal precision" and by "[a] tendency toward irregularity . . . in legislation, and in legal interpretation." J. Randall, Constitutional Problems under Lincoln [p253] 515-516 (rev. ed.1951). Nor would the postwar period of Reconstruction be substantially different.

For several decades prior to the Civil War, constitutional interpretation had been a pressing concern of the Nation's leading statesmen and lawyers, whose attention focused especially on the nature of the relationship of the States to the Federal Government. The onset of the Civil War served only to raise new problems upon which the original Constitution offered, at best, only peripheral guidance. The greatest problem of all, perhaps, was the character of the civil conflict — whether it was to be treated as a rebellion, as a war with a belligerent state, or as some combination of the two. Another issue concerned the scope of federal power to emancipate the slaves; even President Lincoln doubted whether his Emancipation Proclamation would be operative when the war had ended and his special war powers had expired. This particular issue was resolved by the Thirteenth Amendment, but that Amendment only raised new issues, for some men doubted the validity of even a constitutional change upon such a fundamental matter as slavery, particularly while the status of the eleven Confederate States remained unsettled. See id. at 12-24, 59-73, 342-404.

The end of the war did not bring an end to difficult constitutional questions. Two perplexing problems remained. The one was the relation of the former Confederate States to the Federal Government; the other was the relation of the former slaves to the white citizens of the Nation. Both were intimately related to the politics of the day, an understanding of which is essential, since the Fourteenth Amendment was presented to the Nation as the Republican Party's solution for these problems. See J. James, The Framing of the Fourteenth Amendment 169-173 (1956) (hereafter James). [p254]

The starting point must be the key fact that, as of 1860, the Republicans were very much the Nation's minority party. Lincoln had won the Presidency that year with less than 40% of the popular vote, while the Republicans had secured control of Congress only when southern Democrats had left Washington following the secession of their States. The compromise in the original Constitution, by which only three-fifths of the slaves in Southern States were computed in determining representation in the House of Representatives and votes in the electoral college, also was a matter of critical importance in 1865; with slavery abolished, southern, and hence Democratic, power in the House and in the electoral college would increase. The Republicans had calculated this matter rather carefully; as the Chicago Tribune had demonstrated as early as the summer of 1865, the increased southern delegation would need only 29 readily obtainable Democratic votes from the North in order to dominate the House. See James 21-23. But Republicans had no intention of permitting such a Democratic resurgence to occur; in their view, as one Republican Senator observed, Republicans would be "faithless" to their "trust," if they allowed "men who have thus proven themselves faithless" to recover "the very political power which they have hitherto used for the destruction of this Government." Cong.Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess. (hereafter Globe) 2918 (1866) (remarks of Sen. Willey). Whether one looks upon such sentiments as a grasp for partisan political power or as an idealistic determination that the gains of the Civil War not be surrendered, the central fact remains that Republicans found it essential to bar or at least to delay the return of all-white southern delegations to Congress. Temporarily, they proposed to do so by refusing to seat Congressmen from the seceded States. They usually justified their refusal on constitutional grounds, [p255] presenting a variety of theories as to how the former Confederate States had forfeited their rights by secession. See generally E. McKitrick, Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction 93-119 (1960). But exclusion of southern representatives could not be a permanent solution; a better solution seemed to be to elect at least some Republican representatives from the South by enfranchising the only class that could be expected to vote Republican in large numbers — the freedmen.

According to the census of 1860, Negroes had constituted some 4,200,000 of the total population of 12,200,000 in the 15 slave States. In two States — Mississippi and South Carolina — Negroes were a substantial majority of the population, while, in several other States, the population was at least 40% Negro. Thus, Negro suffrage would probably result in a number of Negro, and presumably Republican, representatives from the South. The difficulty was with the means of bringing Negro suffrage about. Some, including Chief Justice Chase, looked back toward the Emancipation Proclamation and contended that Negro suffrage could be achieved, at least in the South, by means of a presidential proclamation. See James 5-7; 1 W. Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction 142 (1906). Others thought congressional legislation the appropriate vehicle for granting the suffrage, see James 13, 553; Van Alstyne, The Fourteenth Amendment, The "Right" to Vote, and the Understanding of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, 1965 Supreme Court Review 33, 49-51, while still others argued for a constitutional amendment. See Cincinnati Daily Commercial, Sept.19, 1865, in James 11-12 (reporting speech of Cong. Bingham). Disagreement over means, however, was but a minor obstacle in the path of equal suffrage; racial prejudice in the North was a far more significant one. Only five New England States and New York permitted any Negroes to vote [p256] as of 1866, see Van Alstyne, supra, at 70, and extension of the suffrage was rejected by voters in 17 of 19 popular referenda held on the subject between 1865 and 1868. Moreover, Republicans suffered some severe election setbacks in 1867 on account of their support of Negro suffrage. See W. Gillette, The Right to Vote 227, 32-38 (1969).

Meeting in the winter and spring of 1866 and facing elections in the fall of the same year, the Republicans in Congress thus faced a difficult dilemma: they desperately needed Negro suffrage in order to prevent total Democratic resurgence in the South, yet they feared that, by pressing for suffrage, they might create a reaction among northern white voters that would lead to massive Democratic electoral gains in the North. Their task was thus to frame a policy that would prevent total southern Democratic resurgence and that simultaneously would serve as a platform upon which Republicans could go before their northern constituents in the fall. What ultimately emerged as the policy and political platform of the Republican Party was the Fourteenth Amendment. [35]

As finally adopted, relevant portions of the Fourteenth Amendment read as follows:

Sec. 1.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [p257]

Sec. 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers. . . . But when the right to vote at any election . . . is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Sec. 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

The key provision on the suffrage question was, of course, § 2, which was to have the effect of reducing the representation of any State which did not permit Negroes to vote. Section 1 also began, however, as a provision aimed at securing equality of "political rights and privileges" — a fact hardly surprising in view of Republican concern with the question. In their earliest versions in the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction, which framed the Fourteenth Amendment, §§ 1 and 2 read as follows:

[Sec. 1.] Congress shall have power to make all laws necessary and proper to secure to all citizens of the United States, in every State, the same political rights and privileges; and to all persons in every State equal protection in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property.

B. Kendrick, The Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction 51 (1914) (hereafter Kendrick).

[Sec. 2.] Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which [p258] may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers of persons, deducting therefrom all of any race or color, whose members or any of them are denied any of the civil or political rights or privileges.

Id. at 43. The question that must now be pursued is whether § 1 of the Amendment ever lost its original connection with the suffrage question.

It became evident at an early date that the Joint Committee did not wish to make congressional power over the suffrage more explicit than did the language of the original version of the future § 1. Six days after that section had been proposed by a subcommittee, the full committee refused to adopt an amendment offered by Senator Howard to make the section refer expressly to "political and elective rights and privileges," id. at 55 (emphasis added), and refused as well to substitute for the language:

Congress shall have power to make all laws necessary and proper to secure to all citizens of the United States in each State the same political rights and privileges; and to all persons in every State equal protection in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property.

the following language offered by Congressman Boutwell:

Congress shall have power to abolish any distinction in the exercise of the elective franchise in any State, which by law, regulation or usage may exist therein.

Id. at 54-55. The committee did agree, however, to return the proposal to a special subcommittee, chaired by Congressman John A. Bingham, which at the next meeting of the full committee reported back the following language:

Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper to secure all [p259] persons in every state full protection in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property; and to all citizens of the United States in any State the same immunities and also equal political rights and privileges.

Id. at 56. This language, it seems clear, did not change the meaning of the section as originally proposed, but the next change in language, proposed several days later by Bingham, arguably did. Bingham moved the following substitute:

The Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper to secure to the citizens of each state all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states (Art. 4, Sec. 2); and to all persons in the several States equal protection in the rights of life, liberty and property (5th Amendment).

Id. at 61. This substitute was accepted by a committee vote of 7-6.

No record of the committee's debates has been preserved, and thus one can only guess whether Bingham's substitute was intended to change the meaning of the original proposal. The breakdown of the committee vote suggests, however, that no change in meaning was intended. The substitute was supported by men of all political views, ranging from Senator Howard and Congressman Boutwell, radicals who had earlier sought to make the section's coverage of suffrage explicit, to Congressman Rogers, a Democrat. Similarly, among the six voting against the substitute were a radical, Stevens; a moderate, Fessenden; and a Democrat, Grider. Id. at 61. Thus, while one might continue to argue that Bingham meant his substitute to do away with congressional power to legislate for the preservation of equal rights of suffrage, one can, with at least equal plausibility, [p260] contend that Bingham sought to do no more than substitute for his earlier specific language more general language which had already appeared elsewhere in the Constitution. [36]

Bingham's proposed amendment to the Constitution, as modified, was next submitted to the House of Representatives, where Republicans joined Democrats in attacking it. Republican Representative Hale of New York, for example, thought the amendment "in effect a provision under which all State legislation, in its codes of civil and criminal jurisprudence and procedure, affecting the individual citizen, may be overridden," Globe 1063, while Representative Davis, also a New York Republican, thought it would give Congress power to establish "perfect political equality between the colored and the white race of the South." Id. at 1085. Meanwhile, the New York Times, edited by conservative Republican Congressman Henry J. Raymond, wondered if the proposed Amendment was "simply a preliminary to the enactment of negro suffrage." Feb.19, 1866. Even the Amendment's supporters recognized that it would confer extensive power upon the Federal Government; Representative Kelley, a Pennsylvania radical, who supported the Amendment, concluded, after a lengthy discussion of the right of suffrage, that "the proposed amendment . . . [was] intended to secure it." Globe 1063. Its proponents, however, could not secure the necessary support for the Amendment in the House, and thus were compelled to postpone the matter until a later date, when they failed to bring it again to the floor. Kendrick 215.

Meanwhile, the Joint Committee had returned to work and had begun to consider the direct antecedent of the Fourteenth Amendment, a proposal by Robert Dale [p261] Owen which Representative Stevens had placed before the committee. Its relevant provision were as follows:

Section 1. No discrimination shall be made by any state, nor by the United States, as to the civil rights of persons because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Sec. 2. From and after the fourth day of July, in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six, no discrimination shall be made by any state, nor by the United States, as to the enjoyment by classes of persons of the right of suffrage, because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Sec. 3. Until the fourth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-six, no class of persons, as to the right of any of whom to suffrage discrimination shall be made by any state, because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, shall be included in the basis of representation.
  • * * *
Sec. 5. Congress shall have power to enforce by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Id. at 884. Congressman Bingham had not, however, given up on his own favorite proposal, and he immediately moved to add the following new section to the Amendment:

Sec. 5. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Id. at 87.

His motion was adopted on a 10-to-2 party-line vote, but its adoption was only the beginning of some intricate and inexplicable maneuvering. Four days later, Senator [p262] Williams, an Oregon radical, moved to delete Bingham's section, and his motion was carried by a vote of 7 to 5, with radicals Howard and Boutwell and Democrats Grider and Johnson voting for the motion and Stevens, Bingham, and Democrat Rogers voting against. Bingham then moved to submit his proposal as a separate amendment, but he was supported by only the three Democrats on the committee. The committee then agreed to submit the Owen proposal to Congress with only slight modifications, but postponed the submission until after one further meeting to be held three days hence. Id. at 98-100.

At this meeting, the proposed Fourteenth Amendment was substantially rewritten. First, the committee, by a vote of 12 to 2, deleted § 2, which had barred States from making racial discriminations in the enjoyment of the right of suffrage after 1876, and conformed § 3 so as to insure that it would remain in effect after 1876. After making numerous other changes, the committee then concluded its deliberations by replacing Owen's ban in § 1 on discrimination "as to civil rights" with Bingham's now familiar language. Here, the vote was 10 to 3, with the majority again containing a full spectrum of political views. Id. at 100-106. The reasons for the rewriting are not entirely clear. The only known explanation was given by Owen in 1875, when he wrote an article recalling a contemporary conversation with Stevens. Stevens had reportedly explained that the committee's original decisions had "got noised abroad," and that, as a result, several state delegations had held caucuses which decided that the explicit references to "negro suffrage, in any shape, ought to be excluded from the platform. . . ." Quoted in id. at 302. Thus, the provision for suffrage after 1876 had to be eliminated, but Stevens did not explain why Bingham's version of § 1 was then substituted [p263] for Owen's version. Perhaps the changes in § 1 of the Amendment were thought by the committee to be mere linguistic improvements which did not substantially modify Owen's meaning and which did not extend its coverage to political, as distinguished from civil, rights. But, at the very least, the committee must have realized that it was substituting for Owen's rather specific language Bingham's far more elastic language — language that, as one scholar has noted, is far more "capable of growth" and "receptive to 'latitudinarian' construction." Bickel, The Original Understanding and the Segregation Decision, 69 Harv.L.Rev. 1, 61, 63 (1955). It is, moreover, at least equally plausible that the committee meant to substitute for Owen's narrow provision dealing solely with civil rights a broader provision that had originated and been understood only two months earlier as protecting equality in the right of suffrage as well as equality of civil rights.

The purpose of § 1 in relation to the suffrage emerges out of the debates on the floor of Congress with an equal obscurity. In the search for meaning, one must begin, of course, with the statements of leading men in Congress, such as Bingham and Howard. Bingham, for one, stated without apparent equivocation that "[t]he amendment does not give . . . the power to Congress of regulating suffrage in the several States." Globe 2542. Similarly, Senator Howard, after noting that the Amendment would accord to Negroes the same protection in their fundamental rights as the law gave to whites, explicitly cautioned that "the first section of the proposed amendment does not give to either of these classes the right of voting." Globe 2766. [37] But such statements are not [p264] as unambiguous as they initially appear to be. Thus, Howard, with that "lack of legal precision" typical of the period, stated that the right of suffrage was not one of the privileges and immunities protected by the Constitution, Globe 2766, immediately after he had read into the record an excerpt from the case of Corfield v. Coryell, 6 F.Cas. 546 (No. 3230) (CCED Pa. 1825), an excerpt which listed the elective franchise as among the privileges and immunities. Globe 2765. Bingham was equally ambiguous, for he too thought that the elective franchise was a constitutionally protected privilege and immunity. Globe 2542. Indeed, at one point in the debates, Bingham made what is for us a completely incongruous statement:

To be sure we all agree, and the great body of the people of this country agree, and the committee thus far in reporting measures of reconstruction agree, that the exercise of the elective franchise, though it be one of the privileges of a citizen of the Republic, is exclusively under the control of the States.

Globe 2542. Bingham seemed to say in one breath, first, that the franchise was a constitutionally protected privilege in support of which Congress under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment could legislate and then, in the next breath, that the franchise was exclusively under the control of the States.

Bingham's words make little sense to modern ears; yet, when they were uttered, his words must have made some sense, at least to Bingham and probably to many of his listeners. The search for their meaning probably [p265] ought to begin with Art. IV, § 2 — the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the original Constitution. In the minds of members of the 39th Congress, the leading case to construe that clause was Corfield v. Corell, supra, which had listed among a citizen's privileges and immunities "the elective franchise, as regulated and established by the laws or constitution of the state in which it is to be exercised." 6 F.Cas. at 552. Here again is the same apparent ambiguity that later occurred in Bingham's thought — that the franchise is a federally protected right, but only to the extent it is regulated and established by state law. The ambiguity was, however, only apparent, and not real, for the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the original Constitution served a peculiar function; it did not create absolute rights, but only placed a noncitizen of a State "upon a perfect equality with its own citizens" as to those fundamental rights already created by state law. Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393, 407 (1857). Accord, id. at 584 (dissenting opinion). The Privileges and Immunities Clause, that is, was a sort of equal protection clause adopted for the benefit of out-of-state citizens; [38] it required, for example, that, if a State gave its own citizens a right to enter into a lawful business, it could not arbitrarily deny the same right to out-of-state citizens solely because they came from out of State. See Ward v. Maryland, 12 Wall. 418, 430 (1871). Thus, what Bingham may have meant in indicating that the franchise was included within the scope of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment while remaining entirely under the control of the States was that, although the States would be free in general to confer the franchise upon whomever they chose, Congress would have power [p266] to bar them from racial or other arbitrary discriminations in making their choices. In short, the Privileges and Immunities Clause might for Bingham have meant the same as the Equal Protection Clause; as he later explained in a campaign speech, § 1 was nothing but "a simple, strong, plain declaration that equal laws and equal and exact justice shall hereafter be secured within every State of this Union. . . ." Cincinnati Daily Commercial, Aug. 27, 1866, quoted in James 160.

One way, then, to reconcile the seemingly incongruous statements of Bingham is to read him as understanding that, while the Fourteenth Amendment did not take from the States nor grant to Congress plenary power to regulate the suffrage, it did give Congress power to invalidate discriminatory state legislation. In his words, the Amendment took

from no State any right which hitherto pertained to the several States of the Union, but it impose[d] a limitation upon the States to correct their abuses of power.

Ibid. Others had a similar understanding. Thus, for Charles Sumner,

Equality of political rights . . . [did] not involve necessarily what is sometimes called the "regulation" of the suffrage by the National Government, although this would be best . . . , [but] simply require[d] the abolition of any discrimination among citizens, inconsistent with Equal Rights.

C. Sumner, Are We a Nation? 34 (1867). Or, as Stevens explained in presenting the Amendment to the House, it merely allowed "Congress to correct the unjust legislation of the States, so far that the law which operates upon one man shall operate equally upon all." Globe 2459 (emphasis in original). Clearest of all, perhaps was Thomas M. Cooley in the 1871 edition of his Constitutional Limitations, where he wrote:

This amendment of the Constitution does not concentrate power in the general government for [p267] any purpose of police government within the States; its object is to preclude legislation by any State which shall "abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," or "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law," or "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws;" and Congress is empowered to pass all laws necessary to render such unconstitutional State legislation ineffectual.

T. Cooley, Constitutional Limitations 294 (2d ed. 1871).

There is also other evidence that, at least some members of Congress and of the electorate believed that § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress power to invalidate discriminatory state regulations of the suffrage. Thus, Congressman Rogers, a Democrat who had served on the Joint Committee, agreed with Bingham and Howard that "[t]he right to vote is a privilege," Globe 2538, while Congressman Boyer, another Democrat, feared that § 1 was "intended to secure ultimately, and to some extent indirectly, the political equality of the negro race." Globe 2467. A third Democrat, Congressman Niblack, thought the section sufficiently ambiguous to warn that he might, although in fact, he never did, offer the following addition to it:

Provided, That nothing contained in this article shall be so construed as to authorize Congress to regulate or control the elective franchise within any State, or to abridge or restrict the power of any State to regulate or control the same within its own jurisdiction, except as in the third section hereof prescribed.

Globe 2465. Republicans also alluded on occasion to their belief that the Amendment might give Congress power to prevent discrimination in regard to the suffrage. Radical [p268] Senator Stewart, for example, while unhappy that the Amendment did not directly confer suffrage, nevertheless could "support this plan" because it did

not preclude Congress from adopting other means by a two-thirds vote, [39] when experience shall have demonstrated, as it certainly will, the necessity for a change of policy. In fact it furnishes a conclusive argument in favor of universal amnesty and impartial suffrage.

Globe 2964. Likewise, the more conservative Congressman Raymond of New York supported the first section because he thought Congress should have the power to legislate on behalf of equal rights "in courts and elsewhere," Globe 2513, after the radical Congressman Wilson of Iowa had informed him that, "if we give a reasonable construction to the term ‘elsewhere,' we may include in that the jury box and the ballot box." Globe 2505. Congressman Stevens, meanwhile, was informing Congress that, "if this amendment prevails, you must legislate to carry out many parts of it," Globe 2544, and was looking forward to "further legislation; in enabling acts or other provisions," Globe 3148, while even the Joint Committee submitted the Amendment to the Nation "in the hope that its imperfections may be cured, and its deficiencies supplied, by legislative wisdom. . . ." Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, H.R.Rep. No. 30, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., xxi (1866). Nor did the radical Republican press disagree; as the Lansing State Republican argued in its editorial columns, even "[i]f impartial suffrage, the real vital question of the whole struggle . . . [was] postponed through the mulish obstinacy of Andrew Johnson," "freedom" would "triumph by the adoption of the proposed [p269] amendment," which would be followed by "equal rights to all. . . ." July 11, 1866. And, of course, once the Amendment had been ratified, Republicans in Congress began to make speeches in favor of legislation which would implement the Amendment by guaranteeing equal suffrage. See, e.g., Cong.Globe, 40th Cong., 2d Sess., 1966-1967 (1868) (remarks of Cong. Stevens); 3d Sess., 1008 (1869) (remarks of Sen. Sumner).

Of course, few of the above statements taken from congressional debates, campaign speeches, and the press were made with such clarity and precision that we can know with certainty that its framers intended the Fourteenth Amendment to function as we think they did. But clarity and precision are not to be expected in an age when men are confronting new problems for which old concepts do not provide ready solutions. As we have seen, the 1860's were such an age, and the men who formulated the Fourteenth Amendment were facing an especially perplexing problem — that of creating federal mechanisms to insure the fairness of state action without, in the process, destroying the reserved powers of the States. It would, indeed, be surprising if the men who first faced this difficult problem were possessed of such foresight that they could debate its solution with complete clarity and consistency and with uniformity of views. There is, in short, every reason to believe that different men reconciled in different and often imprecise ways the Fourteenth Amendment's broad guarantee of equal rights and the statements of some of its framers that it did not give Congress power to legislate upon the suffrage.

Some men, for example, might have reconciled the broad guarantee and the narrow language by concluding that Negroes were not yet ready to exercise the franchise, and hence that a State would not act arbitrarily [p270] in denying it to them while granting it to whites. As the debates make clear, proponents of the Amendment did not understand the Equal Protection Clause to forbid States to distinguish among persons where justification for distinctions appeared. See, e.g., Globe 1064 (Congressman Stevens). At the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, the overwhelming majority of Negro residents of the United States were former slaves living in the Southern States. Most of them were illiterate and uneducated. Except for those few who had been kidnaped by slave traders after reaching adulthood, they had no prior experience with the responsibilities of citizenship. Given this state of affairs, it would hardly be surprising if some of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment felt that the Equal Protection Clause would not forbid the States from classifying Negroes as a group to be denied the right to vote. Equal protection has never been thought to require identical treatment of all persons in all respects. Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. at 583-584, and cases cited. It requires only that the State provide adequate justification for treating one group differently from another. Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968). Entirely aside from any concepts of racial inequality that may have been held by some members of Congress at that time, it seems clear that many members had serious reservations about the ability of the majority of Negroes, after centuries of slavery, to cast an intelligent and responsible vote. See, for example, the debates over a proposal to enfranchise Negroes in the District of Columbia in Cong.Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., 2140-2141, 2239-2243, 2248 (1864). Of course, we would not now hold that even the situation existing in 1866 would justify wholesale exclusion of Negroes from the franchise: our decisions have consistently held that a particular group may not be denied the right to vote merely [p271] because many, or even most, of its members could properly be excluded. Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. at 93-96; Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 632-633; Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. at 424-426; cf. Tussman & TenBroek, The Equal Protection of the Laws, 37 Calif.L.Rev. 341, 351-352 (1949). But mere administrative convenience was once thought to be sufficient justification for an overly broad legislative classification, so long at least as the resultant discrimination could be justified as to a majority of the class affected. Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197, 218-222 (1923); cf. Kotch v. Board of River Port Pilots, 330 U.S. 552 (1947). Rejection of this approach has been the result of a judicial development that could hardly have been known to the framers of the Amendment. Cf. Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 114-115 (1966).

Of course, many Americans in the 1860's rejected imputations that Negroes were unready for the franchise, and thus concluded that distinctions between the races in regard to the franchise would constitute denials of equal protection. Congressman Stevens, for one, had no doubt that to allow a State to deny the franchise to Negroes would be to allow it "to discriminate among the same class." Globe 2460. And Negroes, of course, indignantly rejected such imputations, arguing that "[w]e are not all so illiterate as you suppose" and that

even if we were, our instincts have proved better than that "educated class," whose "little learning" prompted them to attempt the impossible thing of destroying this great Republic. . . .

Letter to the Editor, New York Times, Nov. 4, 1866.

Among the men who refused to regard Negroes as ill-prepared for the exercise of the franchise, there may have been some who did not understand the subtle distinctions of constitutional lawyers such as Bingham, and who thus [p272] accepted at face value assurances that the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress no power over the suffrage. As a result, at least three identifiable groups may have existed within the Republican majorities that enacted and ratified the Amendment — those who thought that Congress would have power to insure to Negroes the same right to suffrage as the States gave to whites, those who thought that Congress would not have such power, since Negroes and whites constituted distinct and dissimilar classes for voting purposes, and those who thought Congress would possess no power at all over the suffrage. Perhaps all three such groups did not exist in 1866 in Congress and in the Nation at large, but surely the evidence is not clear "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the only existent group was the last one, consisting of men who, despite the broad language of § 1 and the hints by speakers of its applicability to the suffrage, simply assumed without developing any analytical framework in support of their assumption that the section would not be so applied.

The evidence, in sum, plausibly suggests that the men who framed the Fourteenth Amendment possessed differing views as to the limits of its applicability but that they papered over their differences because those differences were not always fully apparent and because they could not foresee with precision how their amendment would operate in the future. Moreover, political considerations militated against clarification of issues and in favor of compromise. Much of the North, as already noted, opposed Negro suffrage, and many Republicans in Congress had to seek reelection from constituencies where racial prejudice remained rampant. Republicans in the forthcoming elections thus found it convenient to speak differently before different constituencies; as the Republican state chairman of Ohio wrote, in northern counties of the State,

some of our Speakers have openly [p273] advocated impartial suffrage, while in other places it was thought necessary, not only to repudiate it, but to oppose it.

Letter from B.R. Cowan to S. P. Chase, Oct. 12, 1866, quoted in James 168. Similarly, Senator Wilson of Massachusetts, when accused shortly after the 1866 elections of misrepresenting the issues of the campaign in Delaware by saying nothing of Negro suffrage, replied that, since he had been "in a State where not much progress had been made, I acted somewhat on the scriptural principle of giving ‘milk to babes.'" Cong.Globe, 39th Cong., 2d Sess., 42. Apparently Congressman Ashley of Ohio acted upon similar principles, for when he was asked after the House had initially approved the Amendment whether Congress had "power to confer the right of suffrage upon negroes in the States," he responded,

Well, sir, I do not intend to put myself on record against the right of Congress to do that. I am not prepared now to argue the point with my colleague; but I will say to him that, when the time comes for the American Congress to take action on the question, I will be ready to speak. I will not say now whether I would vote for or against such a proposition.

Globe 2882.

Thus, precise legal analysis and clarity of thought were both intellectually difficult and politically unwise. What Republicans needed, in the words of Wendell Phillips, the former abolitionist leader, was "a party trick to tide over the elections and save time," after which they could

float back into Congress, able to pass an act that shall give the ballot to the negro and initiate an amendment to the Constitution which shall secure it to him.

Speech of Wendell Phillips, July 4, 1866, quoted in A. Harris, A Review of the Political Conflict in America 437 (1876). Similarly, the New York Times, edited by Congressman Henry J. Raymond, a conservative Republican who [p274] ultimately would support the Amendment, observed that

all the excitement that had been raised about constitutional amendments . . . has been simply dust thrown in the eyes of the public to cover the approach to the grand fundamental, indispensable principle of universal negro suffrage. . . .

April 27, 1866, quoted in Harris, supra, at 433.

Not surprisingly, the product of such political needs was an Amendment which contemporaries saw was vague and imprecise. Democratic Senator Hendricks, for example, protested that he had "not heard any Senator accurately define, what are the rights and immunities of citizenship," Globe 3039, while Congressman Boyer, another Democrat, found the first section "objectionable also in its phraseology, being open to ambiguity and admitting of conflicting constructions." Globe 2467. Republicans, too, were aware of the Amendment's vagueness. Thus, when he presented the Amendment to the Senate, Senator Howard noted that "[i]t would be a curious question to solve what are the privileges and immunities of citizens," and proposed not to consider the question at length, since "[i]t would be a somewhat barren discussion." Instead, like the pre-Civil War Supreme Court, [40] he

very modestly declined to go into a definition of them, leaving questions arising under the clause to be discussed and adjudicated when they should happen practically to arise.

Globe 2765.

Thus, the historical evidence does not point to a single, clear-cut conclusion that contemporaries viewed the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment as an explicit abandonment of the radical goal of equal suffrage for Negroes. Rather, the evidence suggests an alternative hypothesis: that the Amendment was framed by men who possessed differing views on the great question of the [p275] suffrage and who, partly in order to formulate some program of government and partly out of political expediency, papered over their differences with the broad, elastic language of § 1 and left to future interpreters of their Amendment the task of resolving in accordance with future vision and future needs the issues that they left unresolved. Such a hypothesis strikes us as far more consistent with the turbulent character of the times than one resting upon a belief that the broad language of the Equal Protection Clause contained a hidden limitation upon its operation that would prevent it from applying to state action regulating rights that could be characterized as "political." [41]

Nor is such a hypothesis inconsistent with the subsequent enactment of the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-fourth Amendments. Those who submitted the Fifteenth Amendment to the States for ratification could well have desired that any prohibition against racial discrimination in voting stand upon a firmer foundation than mere legislative action capable of repeal [42] or the vagaries of judicial decision. [43] Or they could merely have concluded that, whatever might be the case with other rights, the right to vote was too important to allow disenfranchisement of any person for no better reason [p276] than that others of the same race might not be qualified. At least some of the supporters of the Nineteenth Amendment believed that sex discrimination in voting was itself proscribed by the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. 57 Cong.Rec. 3053 (1919). And finally, the Twenty-fourth Amendment was not proposed to the States until this Court had held, in Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937), [44] that state laws requiring payment of a poll tax as a prerequisite to voting did not ipso facto violate the Equal Protection Clause. Accordingly, we see no reason that the mere enactment of these amendments can be thought to imply that their proponents believed the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to state allocations of political power. At a dubious best, these amendments may be read as implying that their proponents felt particular state allocations of power a proper exercise of power under the Equal Protection Clause.

Nor do we find persuasive our Brother HARLAN's argument that § 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment was intended as an exclusive remedy for state restrictions on the franchise, and that, therefore, any such restrictions are permissible under § 1. As Congressman Bingham emphatically told the House, when the same argument was made by Congressman Bromwell,

there has not been such a construction, in my opinion, of a law which imposes only a penalty, for centuries, if ever, in any country where the common law obtains. The construction insisted upon by the gentleman amounts to this, that a law which inflicts a penalty or works a forfeiture for doing an act, by implication authorizes the act to be done for doing which the penalty is inflicted. There [p277] cannot be such a construction of the proviso. It is a penalty. It says in terms that, if any of the States of the United States shall disobey the Constitution . . . , as a penalty, such State shall lose political power in this House. . . .
  • * * *
You place upon your statute-book a law punishing the crime of murder with death. You do not thereby, by implication, say that anybody may, of right, commit murder. You but pass a penal law. You do not prohibit murder in the Constitution; you guaranty life in the Constitution. You do not prohibit the abuse of power by the majority in the Constitution in express terms, but you guaranty the equal right of all free male citizens of full age to elect Representatives; and by the proviso you inflict a penalty upon a State which denies or abridges that right on account of race or color. In doing that, we are not to be told that we confer a power to override the express guarantees of the Constitution. We propose the penalty in aid of the guarantee, not in avoidance of it.

Globe 431-432. See Van Alstyne, supra, at 488.

It may be conceivable that § 2 was intended to be the sole remedy available when a State deprived its citizens of their right to vote, but it is at least equally plausible that congressional legislation pursuant to §§ 1 and 5 was thought by the framers of the Amendment to be another potential remedy. Section 2, in such a scheme, is hardly superfluous: it was of critical importance in assuring that, should the Southern States deny the franchise to Negroes, the Congress called upon to remedy that discrimination would not be controlled by the beneficiaries of discrimination themselves. And it could, of course, have been expected to provide at least a limited remedy [p278] in the event that both Congress and the courts took no action under § 1. Neither logic nor historical evidence compellingly suggests that § 2 was intended to be more than a remedy supplementary, and, in some conceivable circumstances, indispensable, to other congressional and judicial remedies available under §§ 1 and 5. See generally Van Alstyne, supra.

The historical record left by the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it is a product of differing and conflicting political pressures and conceptions of federalism, is thus too vague and imprecise to provide us with sure guidance in deciding the pending cases. We must therefore conclude that its framers understood their Amendment to be a broadly worded injunction capable of being interpreted by future generations in accordance with the vision and needs of those generations. We would be remiss in our duty if, in an attempt to find certainty amidst uncertainty, we were to misread the historical record and cease to interpret the Amendment as this Court has always interpreted it.


There remains only the question whether Congress could rationally have concluded that denial of the franchise to citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 was unnecessary to promote any legitimate interests of the States in assuring intelligent and responsible voting. There is no need to set out the legislative history of Title III at any great length here. [45] Proposals to lower the voting age to 18 had been before Congress at several times since 1942. [46] The Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional [p279] Amendments conducted extensive hearings on the matter in 1968 and again in 1970, [47] and the question was discussed at some length on the floor of both the House and the Senate.

Congress was aware, of course, of the facts and state practices already discussed. [48] It was aware of the opinion of many historians that choice of the age of 21 as the age of maturity was an outgrowth of medieval requirements of time for military training and development of a physique adequate to bear heavy armor. [49] It knew that, whereas only six percent of 18-year-olds in 1900 had completed high school, 81 percent have done so today. [50] Congress was aware that 18-year-olds today make up a not insubstantial proportion of the adult workforce; [51] and it was entitled to draw upon its experience in supervising the federal establishment to determine the competence and responsibility with which 18-year-olds perform their assigned tasks. As Congress recognized, its judgment that 18-year-olds are capable of voting is consistent with its practice of entrusting them with the heavy responsibilities of military service. See § 301(a)(1) of the Amendments. [52] Finally, Congress was presented [p280] with evidence that the age of social and biological maturity in modern society has been consistently decreasing. Dr. Margaret Mead, an anthropologist, testified that, in the past century, the "age of physical maturity has been dropping and has dropped over 3 years." [53] Many Senators and Representatives, including several involved in national campaigns, testified from personal experience that 18-year-olds of today appeared at least as mature and intelligent as 21-year-olds in the Congressmen's youth. [54]

Finally, and perhaps most important, Congress had before it information on the experience of two States, Georgia and Kentucky, which have allowed 18-year-olds to vote since 1943 and 1955, respectively. Every elected Representative from those States who spoke to the issue agreed that, as Senator Talmadge stated,

young people [in these States] have made the sophisticated decisions and have assumed the mature responsibilities of voting. Their performance has exceeded the greatest hopes and expectations. [55]

In sum, Congress had ample evidence upon which it could have based the conclusion that exclusion of citizens 18 to 21 years of age from the franchise is wholly unnecessary to promote any legitimate interest the States may have in assuring intelligent and responsible voting. See Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. at 653-656. If discrimination is unnecessary to promote any legitimate state interest, it is plainly unconstitutional [p281] under the Equal Protection Clause, and Congress has ample power to forbid it under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. We would uphold § 302 of the 1970 Amendments as a legitimate exercise of congressional power.


  1. . Section 202(a) of the Amendments embodies a congressional finding that
  2. . Section 301(a) of the Amendments provides:
  3. . Arizona Constitution, Art. 7, § 2, limits the franchise to those 21 years of age and older. Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 16-101 (Supp. 1970) requires voters to be able to read the Federal Constitution (in English), and to write their names.
  4. . Idaho Constitution, Art. 6, § 2, requires all voters to be 21 years of age or older, and requires 60 days' residence within the State as a precondition to voting in presidential elections. Idaho Code § 34-408 (1963) further requires that 60-day residents have been citizens of another State prior to their removal to Idaho. Provisions for absentee balloting are contained in id. §§ 34-1101 to 34-1125.
  5. . Section 4(c) of the 1965 Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(c) (1964 ed., Supp. V), defines a "test or device" as
  6. . Gaston County was a suit by the county under § 4(a) of the 1965 Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(a) (1964 ed., Supp. V), to reinstate the county's literacy test. The county would have been entitled to do so upon demonstration that, for the preceding five years, no "test or device" had been there used for the purpose or with the effect of abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.
  7. . Wo there reserved only the question of the application of the 1965 Act to suspend literacy tests "in the face of racially disparate educational or literacy achievements for which a government bore no responsibility." 395 U.S. at 293 n. 8 (emphasis supplied).
  8. . Hearings on Amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 1st and 2d Sess., 675 (1969-1970) (hereafter Senate Hearings). Schooling of Indians has for some time been the responsibility of the Federal Government. See Warren Trading Post Co. v. Arizona Tax Commission, 380 U.S. 685, 690-691 (1965).
  9. . E.g., Senate Hearings 185-187; Hearings on the Voting Rights Act Extension before Subcommittee No. 5 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 1st Sess., ser. 3, pp. 55-57, 223-225 (1969) (hereafter House Hearings).
  10. . For example, 1960 census data indicate that from 1955 to 1960, 4,388 blacks moved from Southern States to Arizona, 74,804 to California, and 74,821 to New York. Table 100 in 1 1960 Census of Population, pts. 4, 6, and 34.
  11. . Senate Hearings 399; see id. at 400-407.
  12. . Senate Hearings 678. Tribal Chairman Nakai viewed Arizona's literacy test as the primary cause of this disparity.
  13. . The States are permitted, should they desire, to adopt practices less restrictive than those prescribed by the 1970 Amendments. § 202(g).
  14. . See n. 4, supra.
  15. . See the opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, ante at 148-150.
  16. . See Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. at 630 and n. 8; United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. at 757-758.
  17. . Senate Hearings 282.
  18. . 116 Cong.Rec. 6991.
  19. . Ibid. Idaho Code §§ 31101, 31102, 31103 appear to allow application to be made at any time. Id. § 31121 allows application up to five days before the election for persons in United States service. The ballot may be returned any time prior to noon on election day, id. § 31105 (Supp. 1969). Finally, effective January 1, 1971, applications may be made up to 5 p.m. the day before the election. Id. § 31002 (Supp. 1970). In such circumstances, the argument of administrative impossibility from the viewpoint of Idaho seems almost chimerical.
  20. . Idaho, in addition, claims that its interest in setting qualifications for voters in its own elections serves, without more, as a compelling state interest sufficient to justify the challenged exclusion. But there is no state interest in the mere exercise of power; the power must be exercised for some reason. The only reason asserted by Idaho for the exercise of its power is that already mentioned — promotion of intelligent and responsible voting.
  21. . 116 Cong.Rec. 6970 (Library of Congress, Legislative Reference Service survey).
  22. . Ibid.
  23. . Nor does the California statute, Cal.Welf. & Inst'ns Code § 602 (1966), necessarily evidence a contrary conclusion. California permits its juvenile court to waive jurisdiction of persons over the age of 16 to the regular criminal courts, and state practice appears to be that very few if any felony defendants over the age of 18 are ever tried as juveniles. R. Boches & J. Goldfarb, California Juvenile Court Practice 336 (1968). This may well indicate that the California statute reflects merely a legislative conclusion that the slight burden of waiver hearings is outweighed by the possibility, however light, that a very few individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 might, in fact, be more appropriately treated as juveniles.
  24. . 116 Cong.Rec. 6970.
  25. . For example, in California any woman 18 years old may marry without parental consent, and any man of that age may marry with the consent of one parent. Cal.Civ.Code § 4101 (1970). Any married person who has attained the age of 18 is treated in precisely the same way as all persons of the age of 21 and over with regard to all provisions of the Civil Code, Probate Code, and Code of Civil Procedure, as well as for the purposes of making contracts or entering into any agreement regarding property or his estate. Cal.Civ.Code § 25 (Supp. 1970). The State Labor Department treats males of the age of 18 and over as adults. Cal.Labor Code §§ 1172, 3077 (1955). Persons of the age of 18 and over may serve civil process in the State. Cal.Civ.Proc.Code § 410 (Supp. 1970).
  26. . Some States, of course, do attempt to condition exercise of the franchise upon the ability to pass a literacy test. Presumably some 18-year-old illiterates will be literate at 21. But in light of the fact that 81 percent of the disenfranchised class are high school graduates, it would seem that the number of 18-year-old illiterates who are literate three years later is vanishingly small. See Hearings on S.J.Res. 147 and Others before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., 133 (1970) (Sen. Goldwater). Of course, for reasons that apply as well to 18-year-olds as to others, we have today upheld a nationwide suspension of all literacy tests. Ante at 118. But in any event, that some 18-year-olds may be illiterate is hardly sufficient reason for disenfranchising the entire class. See Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 632-633.
  27. . Eighteen-year-olds as a class are better educated than some of their elders. The median number of school years completed by 18- and 19-year-olds two years ago was 12.2; it was 8.8 for persons 65 to 74. Bureau of the Census, Educational Attainment, table 1 (Current Population Reports, Series P-20, No. 182) (1969).
  28. . Hawaii and Alaska have, since their admission to the Union in 1959, allowed the vote to 19-year-olds (Alaska) and 20-year-olds (Hawaii).
  29. . See, e.g., 116 Cong.Rec. 6433-6434 (Sen. Cook), 6929-6930 (Sens. Talmadge and Ervin); Senate Hearing 343 (Gov. Maddox).
  30. . The state of facts necessary to justify a legislative discrimination will of course vary with the nature of the discrimination involved. When we have been faced with statutes involving nothing more than state regulation of business practices, we have often found mere administrative convenience sufficient to justify the discrimination. E.g., Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 487, 488-489 (1955). But when a discrimination has the effect of denying or inhibiting the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights, we have required that it be not merely convenient, but necessary. Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. at 627; Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. at 96; see United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 377 (1968); United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570, 582-583 (1968). And we have required as well that it be necessary to promote not merely a constitutionally permissible state interest, but a state interest of substantial importance. Kramer v. Union School District, supra; Carrington v. Rash, supra; Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 487-490 (1960); see United States v. O'Brien, supra.
  31. . As we emphasized in Katzenbach v. Morgan, supra, "§ 5 does not grant Congress power to . . . enact ‘statutes so as in effect to dilute equal protection and due process decisions of this Court.'" 384 U.S. at 651 n. 10. As indicated above, a decision of this Court striking down a state statute expresses, among other things, our conclusion that the legislative findings upon which the statute is based are so far wrong as to be unreasonable. Unless Congress were to unearth new evidence in its investigation, its identical findings on the identical issue would be no more reasonable than those of the state legislature.
  32. . Brief for the State of Oregon 10-13; Brief for the State of Texas 10-12; Brief for the State of Arizona 19; Brief for the State of Idaho 22, 28 30.
  33. . Brief amicus curiae for the Commonwealth of Virginia 13-22; see Brief amicus curiae for the State of Mississippi 7-11.
  34. . Indeed, since the First Amendment is applicable to the States only through the Fourteenth, our Brother HARLAN's view would appear to allow a State to exclude any unpopular group from the political process solely upon the basis of its political opinions.
  35. . Republicans explicitly looked upon the Fourteenth Amendment as a political platform. See 2 F. Fessenden, Life and Public Services of William Pitt Fessenden 62 (1907); B. Kendrick, The Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction 302 (1914). See also infra at 262.
  36. . The language appears earlier in Art. IV, § 2.
  37. . As the statements of Bingham and Howard in the text indicate, the framers of the Amendment were not always clear whether they understood it merely as a grant of power to Congress or whether they thought, in addition, that it would confer power upon the courts, which the courts would use to achieve equality of rights. Since § 5 is clear in its grant of power to Congress and we have consistently held that the Amendment grants power to the courts, this issue is of academic interest only.
  38. . According to Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 180 (1869), the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Art. 4, § 2, secured to citizens "in other States the equal protection of their laws."
  39. . Senator Stewart's statement regarding the two-thirds requirement appears to refer to § 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires such a majority for legislation granting amnesty to former Confederate leaders.
  40. . This Court has taken such an approach in Conner v. Elliott, 18 How. 591 (1856).
  41. . Ironically, the same distinction between "political" and other rights was drawn by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 545-546 (1896). But the Court there concluded, directly contrary to our Brother HARLAN's position, that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to "political" rights and to those rights only.
  42. . As Thaddeus Stevens had pointed out in urging passage of the Fourteenth Amendment despite the fact that, he felt, some of its guarantees could be enforced by mere legislative enactment, "a law is repealable by a majority." Globe 2459.
  43. . Radical disenchantment with decisions of this Court had led, prior to the Fifteenth Amendment, to the Act of March 27, 1868, 15 Stat. 44, withdrawing our appellate jurisdiction over certain habeas corpus cases. See Ex parte McCardle, 7 Wall. 506, 508, 514-515 (1869).
  44. . Breedlove has been overruled by Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 669 (1966).
  45. . For a full collection of the relevant materials, see Note, Legislative History of Title III of the Voting Rights Act of 1970, 8 Harv.J.Legis. 123 (1970).
  46. . See 88 Cong.Rec. 8312, 8316 (1942).
  47. . Hearings on S.J.Res. 8, 14, and 78 before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 90th Cong., 2d Sess. (1968); Hearings on S.J.Res. 147 and Others before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 91st Cong., 2d Sess. (1970) (hereafter 1970 Hearings).
  48. . Supra at 242-246.
  49. . See 116 Cong.Rec. 6955; James, The Age of Majority, 4 Am.J.Legal Hist. 22 (1960); Report of the Committee on the Age of Majority Presented to the English Parliament 21 (1967).
  50. . 116 Cong.Rec. 6435.
  51. . 16 Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, table A-3 (June 1970).
  52. . See also Senate Hearings 323 (Sen. Kennedy), 116 Cong.Rec. 5950-5951 (Sen. Mansfield); 6433 (Sen. Cook). See generally Note, supra, n. 45, at 134-148.
  53. . 1970 Hearings at 223. Dr. W. Walter Menninger, a psychiatrist, and Dr. S. I. Hayakawa agreed. Id. at 23, 36.
  54. . E.g., 116 Cong.Rec. 5950-5951 (Sen. Mansfield); 6433-6434 (Sen. Cook); 6434-6437 (Sen. Goldwater); 6929-6930 (Sen. Talmadge, joined by Sen. Ervin); 6950-6951 (Sen. Tydings).
  55. . 116 Cong.Rec. 6929.