Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 2.djvu/382

This page needs to be proofread.

364 ^^^ VARD LAW RE VIE W.

secured by our system of law, which have not been excepted by the federal Constitution.

Now, by far the most important political right of a man in this country is the right to vote. But this right is derived from the States, not from the United States. The States fix the qualifi- cations of voters. The United States confers suffrage upon no one, imposes no qualifications of its own. There is no occasion for a body of federal electors, except for choice of representatives, senators, President, and Vice-President. The Constitution ^ pro- vides that the electors in each State for members of the House of Representatives shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature. Senators are to be elected by the State legislatures.^ The President and Vice-President are chosen by electors, appointed in such manner as the legislature of each State may direct.^ Only in the last instance does the United States provide for the creation of an electoral body, and perhaps, strictly speaking, this body is com- posed of voters of the United States ; but for the election of representatives and senators electoral bodies already in existence are employed.* Nor can it be said that the XVth Amendment confers the right of suffrage upon any one. It has merely given to citizens of the United States the constitutional right to ** exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. . . . The right to vote in the States comes from the States ; but the exemp- tion from the prohibited discrimination comes from the United States,"^ and this exemption applies to all electors, whether State or National. It follows, therefore, that Congress may, as to the right to vote, prevent all discriminations by the States on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Further than this Congress cannot interfere with State elections, unless the State, by withholding the equal protection of its general laws, fails to secure the right of suffrage to all voters alike.

Congress has, however, special powers with reference to federal

  • Art I., sec. 2. *Art. I., sec. 3.

» Art, II., sec. i. * United States v, Reese, 2 Otto, 214 C1875).

^ United States v. Croiksbank, 2 Otto, 542 (1875). ^^^ >t should be noticed tbat inci. dentally tbe United States may confer tbe rigbt of suffrage *< by compelling the States to choose between excluding white men from the polls and admitting negroes, and striking the word 'white' from the laws by which the right of voting was regulated.*' i Hare, Am* Const. Law, 524; Ex parte Yarbrough, no U. S. 651, 665.