United States v. Reese

PETITIONER:United States
RESPONDENT:Hiram Reese and Matthew Foushee

DECIDED BY: Waite Court (1874-1877)

ARGUED: Jan 13, 1875 / Jan 14, 1875
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1876

Facts of the case

In January 1873, two election inspectors, Hiram Reese and Matthew Foushee, refused to allow William Garner, an African-American, to vote in a municipal election in Lexington, Kentucky. Reese and Foushee claimed Garner had failed to pay a tax of $1.50, but Garner had attempted to pay the tax and was refused by a tax collector. The Enforcement Act of 1870, which defined penalties associated with violations of voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment, stipulated that if an official refused to permit a citizen to perform an action required for voting, the citizen could present an affidavit that would qualify him. Reese and Foushee refused to accept Garner’s affidavit. Reese and Foushee were charged with violating the Enforcement Act. On appeal, the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kentucky found the relevant sections of the Enforcement Act too broad, exceeding the bounds of the Fifteenth Amendment, and dismissed the indictments.


Was the Enforcement Act of 1870 a valid exercise of Congress’s power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment?