Law School Case Brief
Katzenbach v. Morgan - 384 U.S. 641, 86 S. Ct. 1717 (1966)
Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment is a positive grant of power and therefore a federal law that ensures the right to vote after a person successfully completed the 6th grade is a valid exercise of that power.
N.Y. Const. art. II, § 1 and N.Y. Elec. Law § 150, provides that no person could become entitled to vote unless such person was also able, except for physical disability, to read and write English. Registered voters question the constitutionality of § 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1973b(e), which provides that no person who met specified educational requirements could be denied the right to vote due to inability to speak or write English. The effect being precluded enforcement of N.Y. Const. art. II, § 1 and N.Y. Elec. Law § 150. The district court ruled that in enacting § 4(e), Congress exceeded the powers granted to it by the Constitution and usurped powers reserved to the states by U.S. Const. amend. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Is § 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C.S. § 1973b(e) Constitutional?
The Court held that states have no power to grant or withhold the franchise on conditions that are forbidden by U.S. Const. amend. XIV, or any other provision of the Constitution. Under the distribution of powers effected by the Constitution, the states may establish qualifications for voting for state officers, and the qualifications established by the states for voting for members of the most numerous branch of the state legislature also determine who may vote for United States Representatives and Senators. But states may not issue conditions which are contradictory to the US Constitution.
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