Amendment XIV says:

But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

What does it mean? A State can abridge the right to vote of persons 21 years of age or older except in case of rebellion or any other crime? It seems logical it would be the contrary: irt could not abridge the right to vote except for rebellion or any other crime


It says if some portion of the electorate is deprived of the right to vote then the state looses an equal proportion of its representation in Congress (and therefore electoral college votes). There is an exception "rebellion, or other crime". So if a state disenfranchises X% of the population for rebellion or crime they do not lose X% of their representatives/electors.

  • thanks - edited answer Nov 9 '20 at 19:34
  • For example, it is constitutional for a state to require property ownership to vote in a federal election, but if it does so, its representation in Congress is reduced in proportion to the share of adult citizens over the age of twenty-one disenfranchised for reasons other than crimes (in a state with just one representative, there is no penalty at all).
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 10 '20 at 1:33
  • @ohwilleke: Isn't it just male citizens over 21?
    – user102008
    Nov 11 '20 at 6:56
  • My answer is to the question "what does it mean". Two later amendments are very clear - Amendment XIX (1920) 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 sex.Amendment XXVI (1971) and presumably affect the interpretation of the one in question. Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. Nov 11 '20 at 18:29
  • @user102008 George White raises a plausible interpretation. There is almost no case law because legal disqualification from voting for citizens age 18+ for reasons other than a crime are basically non-existent. One can certain imagine a test case that would clearly test the distinction (e.g. a state could constitutionally require military service to vote as in the fictional book 'Starship Troopers" by Heinlein) but there is no political support for that. kind of restriction. States have usually used the power to define the franchise to be broader than the all adult citizens.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 11 '20 at 19:18

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