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Foster v. Love

Supreme Court of the United States

October 6, 1997, Argued ; December 2, 1997, Decided

No. 96-670

Opinion

 [**466]   [***373]   [*68]  JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court. 1 

 Under 2 U.S.C. §§ 1 and 7, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in an even-numbered year "is established" as the date for federal congressional elections. Louisiana's "open primary" statute provides an opportunity to fill the offices of United States Senator and Representative during the previous month, without any action [****5]  to be taken on  [*69]  federal election day. The issue before us is whether such an ostensible election runs afoul of the federal statute. We hold that it does.

 ] The Elections Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 4, cl. 1, provides that "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations." The Clause is a default provision; it invests the States with responsibility for the mechanics of congressional elections, see Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730, 39 L. Ed. 2d 714, 94 S. Ct. 1274 (1974), but only so far as Congress declines to pre-empt state legislative choices, see Roudebush v. Hartke, 405 U.S. 15, 24, 31 L. Ed. 2d 1, 92 S. Ct. 804 (1972) ("Unless Congress acts, Art. I, § 4, empowers the States to regulate"). Thus it is well settled that the Elections Clause grants Congress "the power to override state regulations" by establishing uniform rules for federal elections, binding on the States. U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 832-833, 131 L. Ed. 2d 881, 115 S. Ct. 1842 (1995). ] "The regulations made by Congress are paramount to those made by the State legislature; and if they conflict [****6]  therewith, the latter, so far as the conflict extends, ceases to be operative." Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 384, 25 L. Ed. 717 (1880).

] One congressional rule adopted under the Elections Clause (and its counterpart for the Executive Branch, Art. II, § 1, cl. 3) sets the date of the biennial election for federal offices. See 2 U.S.C. §§ 1, 7; 3 U.S.C. § 1. Title 2 U.S.C. § 7 was originally enacted in 1872, and now provides that "the Tuesday next after the 1st Monday in November, in every even numbered year, is established as the day for the election, in each of the States and Territories of the United States, of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress commencing on the 3d day of January next thereafter." This provision, along with 2 U.S.C. § 1 (setting the same  [*70]  rule for electing Senators under  [***374]  the Seventeenth Amendment) and 3 U.S.C. § 1 (doing the same for selecting presidential electors), mandates holding all elections for Congress and the Presidency on a single day throughout the Union.

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522 U.S. 67 *; 118 S. Ct. 464 **; 139 L. Ed. 2d 369 ***; 1997 U.S. LEXIS 7331 ****; 66 U.S.L.W. 4015; 97 Cal. Daily Op. Service 8995; 97 Daily Journal DAR 14509; 1997 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3072; 1997 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3242; 11 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 254

MURPHY J. FOSTER, JR., GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. G. SCOTT LOVE, PAUL S. BERGERON, KATHLEEN B. BALHOFF, AND BENNIE BAKER-BOURGEOIS

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT, Reported at: 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 18733.

Disposition: 90 F.3d 1026, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

election, candidate, presidential, voters

Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Elections, Time, Place & Manner Restrictions, Governments, Federal Government, US Congress, General Overview, Regulations, Elections, Supremacy Clause, Elections, Terms & Voting, US Senate Terms & Vacancies, State & Territorial Governments