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Oregon v. Mitchell (1970)

THE ISSUE

Oregon v. Mitchell and the other cases arising out of the 1970 Voting Rights Act Amendments raised difficult questions about the division of power between state and national governments. Although the Constitution gives privileges to and sets parameters for each, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments (often referred to as the Civil War Amendments) qualified state power in order to give the federal government the authority to protect citizens against discriminatory practices. In Oregon v, Mitchell, the Court was asked to answer the question: Does the authority vested in the federal government by the Fourteenth Amendment give Congress the right to regulate age requirements for both national and state elections?

THE OPINION?

Below are two opinions. Click on the answer you think represents the Supreme Court's majority opinion in Oregon v. Mitchell.

No Yes
Photo of a voting rights march.

NO, the authority vested in the federal government by the Fourteenth Amendment does not give Congress the right to regulate age requirements for both national and state elections.

"Our judgments today give the Federal Government the power the Framers conferred upon it, that is, the final control of the elections of its own officers. Our judgments also save for the States the power to control state and local elections which the Constitution originally reserved to them and which no subsequent amendment has taken from them. The generalities of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were not designed or adopted to render the States impotent to set voter qualifications in elections for their own local officials and agents in the absence of some specific constitutional limitations."
-- Hugo Black

No


Photo of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

YES, the authority vested in the federal government by the Fourteenth Amendment does give Congress the right to regulate age requirements for both national and state elections.

"In sum, Congress had ample evidence upon which it could have based the conclusion that exclusion of citizens 18 to 21 years of age from the franchise is wholly unnecessary to promote any legitimate interest the States may have in assuring intelligent and responsible voting. If discrimination is unnecessary to promote any legitimate state interest, it is plainly unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, and Congress has ample power to forbid it under...the Fourteenth Amendment. We would uphold...the 1970 Amendments as a legitimate exercise of congressional power."
-- William Brennan

Yes