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The United States government is without power to rob a citizen of his citizenship under § 401(e) of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1168-1169, on the ground that the citizen voted in an election of a foreign state.
Petitioner, of Polish birth, became a naturalized American citizen in 1926. He went to Israel in 1950 and in 1951 voted in an Israeli legislative election. The State Department subsequently refused to renew his passport, maintaining that petitioner had lost his citizenship by virtue of § 401 (e) of the Nationality Act of 1940 which provides that a United States citizen shall "lose" his citizenship if he votes in a foreign political election. Petitioner then brought this declaratory judgment action alleging the unconstitutionality of § 401 (e). On the basis of Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44, the District Court and Court of Appeals held that Congress under its implied power to regulate foreign affairs can strip an American citizen of his citizenship.
Was 401(e) of the Nationality Act of 1940, which provides that a United States citizen shall lose his citizenship if he votes in a political election in a foreign state, constitutional?
The Court reversed the holding of the lower court on the basis that the government could not rob a citizen of his citizenship without his consent by simply proceeding to act under its own general power. The Court held that this was in direct contradiction to the rights of citizenship guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and overruled Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44 (1958).