UNITED STATES V. REESE, 92 U. S. 214 (1875)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1875)

United States v. Reese

92 U.S. 214


1. Rights and immunities created by or dependent upon the Constitution of the United States can be protected by Congress. The form and manner of that protection may be such as Congress, in the legitimate exercise of its legislative discretion, shall provide, and may be varied to meet the necessities of a particular right.

2. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution does not confer the right of suffrage, but it invests citizens of the United States with the right of

Page 92 U. S. 215

exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and empowers Congress to enforce that right by "appropriate legislation."

3. The power of Congress to legislate at all upon the subject of voting at state elections rests upon this amendment, and can be exercised by providing a punishment only when the wrongful refusal to receive the vote of a qualified elector at such elections is because of his race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

4. The third and fourth sections of the Act of May 31, 1570, 16 Stat. 140, not being confined in their operation to unlawful discrimination on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, are beyond the limit of the Fifteenth Amendment and unauthorized.

5. As these sections are in general language broad enough to cover wrongful acts without as well as within the constitutional jurisdiction, and cannot be limited by judicial construction so as to make them operate only on that which Congress may rightfully prohibit and punish, held that Congress has not provided by "appropriate legislation" for the punishment of an inspector of a municipal election for refusing to receive and count at such election the vote of a citizen of the United States of African descent.

6. Since the passage of the act which gives the presiding judge the casting vote in cases of division and authorizes a judgment in accordance with his opinion, Rev.Stat., sec. 650, this Court, if it finds that the judgment as rendered is correct, need do no more than affirm it. If, however, that judgment is reversed, all questions certified, which are considered in the final determination of the case here, should be answered.

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