The Voting Rights Case: A Constitutional View

by Rob Natelson,

The Fifteenth Amendment, adopted five years after Civil War ended, was designed primarily to secure the right to vote for newly-freed slaves. Section 1 of the Amendment provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Section 2 grants to Congress an additional enumerated power: “The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” This provision, like the similar enumerated power granted by the Fourteenth Amendment, often has been compared to the Necessary and Proper Clause.

It is unclear why the enumerated powers in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments are compared to the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Necessary and Proper Clause is technically redundant—that is, it merely clarifies that what would be true in any event. But Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment, like Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, actually does grant Congress entirely new authority.

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Categories: Pro Constitution


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