United States v. Classic

Facts of the Case

Defendant election commissioners were charged with conspiring to willfully alter and falsely count and certify the ballots of votes cast in a state primary election. The district court found that the right to vote in a state primary election was not secured by the United States Constitution. Reversing the judgment, the Court found that U.S. Const. art. 1, § 2 gave qualified voters of each state the right to elect their congressional representatives. The district court sustained a demurrer to two counts of an indictment against or altering election ballots. Plaintiff appealed.


Does Article I, section 4 permit Congress to regulate primary elections, specifically to protect voters from the fraudulent misrepresentation or alteration of their ballot?


Yes. In an opinion authored by Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, the marjority argued that Newberry was deeply divided over the matter of primaries. He chose instead to rely on logic applied in concurring opinions. Stone rejected the narrow interpretation that Congressional power did not extend to primaries because the framers were unaware of the primary process. Instead, the Stone argued that primary contests are fundamental to elections in that they are the only real chance voters have of choosing whomever they prefer without ballot access limitations.

Case Information

  • Citation: 313 US 299 (1941)
  • Argued: Apr 7, 1941
  • Decided May 26, 1941