United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



Amendment 14: Section 2

Text of Constitution:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. 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.

The 'Travis Translation' of Constitution:

Representatives will be figured among the States according to their numbers, counting all the people in the State, except Native Americans who are not taxed. If a State will not let any male citizen over 21 years old vote freely (unless he commits a crime, or takes part in a rebellion), the num­ber of Representatives for that states will be reduced.

The End of the Three-Fifths Compromise Important Cases
As with Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, this section – and the remaining sections – were originally written in direct response to the Civil War. Before the passage of this amendment, in Antebellum (Pre-Civil War) America, the number of delegates sent by each state to the House of Representatives was governed by Article I, Section 2, Clause 3. There, the House was created as a legislative body whose numbers reflected the populations of the respective states (unlike in the Senate, where each state sends 2 representatives, regardless of population).

During the Constitutional Convention, however, a compromise was needed. In the southern states, there were many black slaves who, if counted toward the population for the House, would have given the south what the north saw as an unfair advantage. The southern states wanted more representation in the Congress – and sought to have the slaves (even though they were slaves) counted among the rest of the citizens. The northern states wanted the slaves to not count toward the population numbers of the states.

The compromise that was settled on, then, became known as the “Three-Fifths Compromise.” The black slaves in the southern states would neither be counted as whole persons nor not counted at all. Rather, each slave was considered to be 3/5 of a person.

In the wake of the Civil War, however, this would no longer do. The slaves were freed (through the Emancipation Proclamation and, later, the 13th Amendment). Thus, this section of 14th Amendment remedies the stain on the original Constitution and overrides Article I, Section 2, Clause 3. For purposes of counting populations for representation in the House of Representatives, “the whole number of persons in each State” must be counted.

Consequences of Denying the Right to Vote Important Cases
Though it has never been carried out, this section of the 14th Amendment also carries with it a threat: for any state which denies the right to vote (to males of 21 years of age or older) for any reason except rebellion or crime, that state will receive a reduction in its representation in the House of Representatives proportional to its denial of the right. Though the theory behind the threat, and its implications for the rest of the amendment, have been discussed in cases like Reynolds v. Sims (1964) (see Justice Harlan’s dissent, in particular), and Richardson v. Ramirez (1974), it has never been practically applied. Reynolds v. Sims (1964)

Richardson v. Ramirez (1974)