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Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162 (1875)

In Politics on 02/09/2009 at 11:28 PM

FACTS: The constitution Missouri states: every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote. A state statute of Missouri states: all persons wishing to vote at any election, must previously have been registered in the manner pointed out by the statute, thus being a condition precedent to the exercise of the elective franchise. When Virginia Minor, a native born citizen over the age of 21, attempted to register to vote Reece Happersett, the registrar, refused to add her to the roles because she was a woman.

ISSUE: Are the provisions of the constitution and the laws of the state of Missouri which confine the right of suffrage and registration to men alone in violation of the Privileges and Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

REASONING: There is no doubt that women may be citizens. They are persons, and by the fourteenth amendment ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof’ are expressly declared to be ‘citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’ But, in our opinion, it was not this amendment that made women citizens. Before its adoption the Constitution of the United States did not in terms prescribe who should be citizens of the United States or of the several States, yet there were necessarily such citizens without such provision. Each one of the persons associated becomes a member of the nation formed by the association. For convenience it has been found necessary to give a name to this membership. The object is to designate by a title the person and the relation he bears to the nation. For this purpose the words ‘subject,’ ‘inhabitant,’ and ‘citizen’ have been used, and the choice between them is sometimes made to depend upon the form of the government. When used in this sense it is understood as conveying the idea of membership of a nation, and nothing more.
Disputes have arisen as to whether or not certain persons or certain classes of persons were part of the people at the time, but never as to their citizenship if they were. Other proof of like character might be found, but certainly more cannot be necessary to establish the fact that sex has never been made one of the elements of citizenship in the United States. In this respect men have never had an advantage over women. The same laws precisely apply to both. The fourteenth amendment did not affect the citizenship of women any more than it did of men. Therefore, the rights of Mrs. Minor do not depend upon the amendment. She has always been a citizen from her birth, and entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizenship.
The Constitution does not define the privileges and immunities of citizens. For that definition we must look elsewhere. In this case we need not determine what they are, but only whether suffrage is necessarily one of them. It certainly is nowhere made so in express terms. The United States has no voters in the States of its own creation. The elective officers of the United States are all elected directly or indirectly by State voters.
The amendment did not add to the privileges and immunities of a citizen. It simply furnished an additional guaranty for the protection of such as he already had. No new voters were necessarily made by it. Indirectly it may have had that effect, because it may have increased the number of citizens entitled to suffrage under the constitution and laws of the States, but it operates for this purpose, if at all, through the States and the State laws, and not directly upon the citizen. It is clear, therefore, we think, that the Constitution has not added the right of suffrage to the privileges and immunities of citizenship as they existed at the time it was adopted.

DECISION: Affirmed

RULE: The provisions of the constitution and the laws of the state of Missouri which confine the right of suffrage and registration to men alone are not in violation of the Privileges and Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

CONCURRING: No concurring or dissenting opinions were provided.

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