MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases concern the constitutionality of § 4 (e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Under the distribution of powers effected by the Constitution, the States establish qualifications for voting for state officers, and the qualifications established by the States for voting for members of the most numerous branch of the state legislature also determine who may vote for United States Representatives and Senators, Art. I, § 2; Seventeenth Amendment; Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651, 663. But, of course, the States have no power to grant or withhold the franchise on conditions that are forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment, or any other provision of the Constitution. Such exercises of state power are no more immune to the limitations of the Fourteenth Amendment than any other state action. The Equal Protection Clause itself has been held to forbid some state laws that restrict the right to vote.
Thus our task in this case is not to determine whether the New York English literacy requirement as applied to deny the right to vote to a person who successfully completed the sixth grade in a Puerto Rican school violates the Equal Protection Clause. Accordingly, our decision in Lassiter v. Northampton Election Bd., 360 U.S. 45, sustaining the North Carolina English literacy requirement as not in all circumstances prohibited by the first sections of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, is inapposite. Compare also Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347, 366; Camacho v. Doe, 31 Misc.2d 692, 221 N.Y.S.2d 262 (1958), aff'd 7 N.Y.2d 762, 163 N.E.2d 140 (1959); Camacho v. Rogers, 199 F.Supp. 155 (D. C. S. D. N. Y. 1961). Lassiter did not present the question before us here: Without regard to whether the judiciary would find that the Equal Protection Clause itself nullifies New York's English literacy requirement as so applied, could Congress prohibit the enforcement of the state law by legislating under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment? In answering this question, our task is limited to determining whether such
By including § 5 the draftsmen sought to grant to Congress, by a specific provision applicable to the Fourteenth Amendment, the same broad powers expressed in the Necessary and Proper Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 18.
Ex parte Virginia, 100 U. S., at 345-346, decided 12 years after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that congressional power under § 5 had this same broad scope:
We therefore proceed to the consideration whether § 4 (e) is "appropriate legislation" to enforce the Equal Protection Clause, that is, under the McCulloch v. Maryland standard, whether § 4 (e) may be regarded as an enactment to enforce the Equal Protection Clause, whether it is "plainly adapted to that end" and whether it is not prohibited by but is consistent with "the letter and spirit of the constitution."
Section 4 (e) may be readily seen as "plainly adapted" to furthering these aims of the Equal Protection Clause. The practical effect of § 4 (e) is to prohibit New York from denying the right to vote to large segments of its Puerto Rican community. Congress has thus prohibited the State from denying to that community the right that is "preservative of all rights." Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370. This enhanced political power will be helpful in gaining nondiscriminatory treatment in public services for the entire Puerto Rican community.
The result is no different if we confine our inquiry to the question whether § 4 (e) was merely legislation aimed
There remains the question whether the congressional remedies adopted in § 4 (e) constitute means which are not prohibited by, but are consistent "with the letter and spirit of the constitution." The only respect in which appellees contend that § 4 (e) fails in this regard is that the section itself works an invidious discrimination in violation of the Fifth Amendment by prohibiting the enforcement of the English literacy requirement only for those educated in American-flag schools (schools located within United States jurisdiction) in which the language of instruction was other than English, and not for those educated in schools beyond the territorial limits of the United States in which the language of instruction was also other than English. This is not a complaint that Congress, in enacting § 4 (e), has unconstitutionally denied or diluted anyone's right to vote but rather that Congress violated the Constitution by not extending the
Section 4 (e) does not restrict or deny the franchise but in effect extends the franchise to persons who otherwise would be denied it by state law. Thus we need not decide whether a state literacy law conditioning the right to vote on achieving a certain level of education in an American-flag school (regardless of the language of instruction) discriminates invidiously against those educated in non-American-flag schools. We need only decide whether the challenged limitation on the relief effected in § 4 (e) was permissible. In deciding that question, the principle that calls for the closest scrutiny of distinctions in laws denying fundamental rights, see n. 15, supra, is inapplicable; for the distinction challenged by appellees is presented only as a limitation on a reform measure aimed at eliminating an existing barrier to the exercise of the franchise. Rather, in deciding the constitutional propriety of the limitations in such a reform measure we are guided by the familiar principles that a "statute is not invalid under the Constitution because it might have gone farther than it did," Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337, 339, that a legislature need not "strike at all evils at the same time," Semler v. Dental Examiners, 294 U.S. 608, 610, and that "reform may take one step at a time, addressing itself to the phase of the problem which seems most acute to the legislative mind," Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 489.
Guided by these principles, we are satisfied that appellees' challenge to this limitation in § 4 (e) is without merit. In the context of the case before us, the congressional choice to limit the relief effected in § 4 (e) may,
We therefore conclude that § 4 (e), in the application challenged in this case, is appropriate legislation to enforce the Equal Protection Clause and that the judgment of the District Court must be and hereby is
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins the Court's opinion except for the discussion, at pp. 656-658, of the question whether the congressional remedies adopted in § 4 (e) constitute means which are not prohibited by, but are consistent with "the letter and spirit of the constitution." On that
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins, dissenting.
Worthy as its purposes may be thought by many, I do not see how § 4 (e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 439, 42 U. S. C. § 1973b (e) (1964 ed. Supp. I), can be sustained except at the sacrifice of fundamentals in the American constitutional system—the separation between the legislative and judicial function and the boundaries between federal and state political authority. By the same token I think that the validity of New York's literacy test, a question which the Court considers only in the context of the federal statute, must be upheld. It will conduce to analytical clarity if I discuss the second issue first.
The Cardona Case (No. 673).
This case presents a straightforward Equal Protection problem. Appellant, a resident and citizen of New York, sought to register to vote but was refused registration because she failed to meet the New York English literacy qualification respecting eligibility for the franchise.
Any analysis of this problem must begin with the established rule of law that the franchise is essentially a matter of state concern, Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162; Lassiter v. Northampton Election Bd., 360 U.S. 45, subject only to the overriding requirements of various federal constitutional provisions dealing with the franchise, e. g., the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-fourth Amendments,
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which alone concerns us here, forbids a State from arbitrarily discriminating among different classes of persons. Of course it has always been recognized that nearly all legislation involves some sort of classification, and the equal protection test applied by this Court is a narrow one: a state enactment or practice may be struck down under the clause only if it cannot be justified as founded upon a rational and permissible state policy. See, e. g., Powell v. Pennsylvania, 127 U.S. 678; Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61; Walters v. City of St. Louis, 347 U.S. 231.
It is suggested that a different and broader equal protection standard applies in cases where "fundamental liberties and rights are threatened," see ante, p. 655, note 15; dissenting opinion of DOUGLAS, J., in Cardona, post,
Thus for me, applying the basic equal protection standard, the issue in this case is whether New York has shown that its English-language literacy test is reasonably designed to serve a legitimate state interest. I think that it has.
In 1959, in Lassiter v. Northampton Election Bd., supra, this Court dealt with substantially the same question and resolved it unanimously in favor of the legitimacy of a state literacy qualification. There a North Carolina English literacy test was challenged. We held that there was "wide scope" for State qualifications of this sort. 360 U. S., at 51. Dealing with literacy tests generally, the Court there held:
I believe the same interests recounted in Lassiter indubitably point toward upholding the rationality of the New York voting test. It is true that the issue here is not so simply drawn between literacy per se and illiteracy. Appellant alleges that she is literate in Spanish, and that she studied American history and government in United States Spanish-speaking schools in Puerto Rico. She alleges further that she is "a regular reader of the New York City Spanish-language daily newspapers and other periodicals, which . . . provide proportionately more coverage of government and politics than do most English-language newspapers," and that she listens to Spanish-language radio broadcasts in New York which provide full treatment of governmental and political news. It is thus maintained that whatever may be the validity of literacy tests per se as a condition of voting, application of such a test to one literate in Spanish, in the context of the large and politically significant Spanish-speaking community in New York, serves no legitimate state interest, and is thus an arbitrary classification that violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Although to be sure there is a difference between a totally illiterate person and one who is literate in a foreign tongue, I do not believe that this added factor vitiates the constitutionality of the New York statute. Accepting appellant's allegations as true, it is nevertheless also true that the range of material available to a resident of New York literate only in Spanish is much more limited than what is available to an English-speaking resident, that the business of national, state, and local government is conducted in English, and that propositions, amendments, and offices for which candidates are running listed on the ballot are likewise in English. It
The Morgan Cases (Nos. 847 and 877).
These cases involve the same New York suffrage restriction discussed above, but the challenge here comes not in the form of a suit to enjoin enforcement of the state statute, but in a test of the constitutionality of a federal enactment which declares that "to secure the rights under the fourteenth amendment of persons educated in American-flag schools in which the predominant classroom language was other than English, it is necessary to prohibit the States from conditioning the right to vote of such persons on ability to read. write, understand, or interpret any matter in the English language." Section 4 (e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 4 (e) declares that anyone who has successfully completed six grades of schooling in an "American-flag" school, in which the primary language is not English, shall not be denied the right to vote because of an inability to satisfy an English literacy test.
The pivotal question in this instance is what effect the added factor of a congressional enactment has on the straight equal protection argument dealt with above. The Court declares that since § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment
When recognized state violations of federal constitutional standards have occurred, Congress is of course empowered by § 5 to take appropriate remedial measures to redress and prevent the wrongs. See Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 310. But it is a judicial question whether the condition with which Congress has thus sought to deal is in truth an infringement of the Constitution, something that is the necessary prerequisite to bringing the § 5 power into play at all. Thus, in Ex parte Virginia, supra, involving a federal statute making it a federal crime to disqualify anyone from jury service because of race, the Court first held as a matter of constitutional law that "the Fourteenth Amendment secures, among other civil rights, to colored men, when charged with criminal offences against a State, an impartial jury trial, by jurors indifferently selected or chosen without discrimination against such jurors because of their color." 100 U. S., at 345. Only then did the Court hold that to enforce this prohibition upon state discrimination, Congress could enact a criminal statute of the type under consideration. See also Clyatt v. United States, 197 U.S. 207. sustaining the constitutionality of the antipeonage
A more recent Fifteenth Amendment case also serves to illustrate this distinction. In South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, decided earlier this Term, we held certain remedial sections of this Voting Rights Act of 1965 constitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment, which is directed against deprivations of the right to vote on account of race. In enacting those sections of the Voting Rights Act the Congress made a detailed investigation of various state practices that had been used to deprive Negroes of the franchise. See 383 U. S., at 308-315. In passing upon the remedial provisions, we reviewed first the "voluminous legislative history" as well as judicial precedents supporting the basic congressional finding that the clear commands of the Fifteenth Amendment had been infringed by various state subterfuges. See 383 U. S., at 309, 329-330, 333-334. Given the existence of the evil, we held the remedial steps taken by the legislature under the Enforcement Clause of the Fifteenth Amendment to be a justifiable exercise of congressional initiative.
Section 4 (e), however, presents a significantly different type of congressional enactment. The question here is not whether the statute is appropriate remedial legislation to cure an established violation of a constitutional command, but whether there has in fact been an infringement of that constitutional command, that is, whether a particular state practice or, as here, a statute is so arbitrary or irrational as to offend the command of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That question is one for the judicial branch ultimately to determine. Were the rule otherwise, Congress would be able to qualify this Court's constitutional decisions under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments,
I do not mean to suggest in what has been said that a legislative judgment of the type incorporated in § 4 (e) is without any force whatsoever. Decisions on questions of equal protection and due process are based not on abstract logic, but on empirical foundations. To the extent "legislative facts" are relevant to a judicial determination, Congress is well equipped to investigate them, and such determinations are of course entitled to due respect.
But no such factual data provide a legislative record supporting § 4 (e)
Thus, we have here not a matter of giving deference to a congressional estimate, based on its determination of legislative facts, bearing upon the validity vel non of a statute, but rather what can at most be called a legislative announcement that Congress believes a state law to entail an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection. Although this kind of declaration is of course
In assessing the deference we should give to this kind of congressional expression of policy, it is relevant that the judiciary has always given to congressional enactments a presumption of validity. The Propeller Genesee Chief v. Fitzhugh, 12 How. 443, 457-458. However, it is also a canon of judicial review that state statutes are given a similar presumption, Butler v. Commonwealth, 10 How. 402, 415. Whichever way this case is decided, one statute will be rendered inoperative in whole or in part, and although it has been suggested that this Court should give somewhat more deference to Congress than to a state legislature,
To deny the effectiveness of this congressional enactment is not of course to disparage Congress' exertion of authority in the field of civil rights; it is simply to recognize that the Legislative Branch like the other branches of federal authority is subject to the governmental boundaries set by the Constitution. To hold, on this record, that § 4 (e) overrides the New York literacy requirement seems to me tantamount to allowing the Fourteenth Amendment to swallow the State's constitutionally ordained primary authority in this field. For if Congress by what, as here, amounts to mere ipse dixit can set that otherwise permissible requirement partially at naught I see no reason why it could not also substitute its judgment for that of the States in other fields of their exclusive primary competence as well.
I would affirm the judgments in each of these cases.
"(1) Congress hereby declares that to secure the rights under the fourteenth amendment of persons educated in American-flag schools in which the predominant classroom language was other than English, it is necessary to prohibit the States from conditioning the right to vote of such persons on ability to read, write, understand, or interpret any matter in the English language.
"(2) No person who demonstrates that he has successfully completed the sixth primary grade in a public school in, or a private school accredited by, any State or territory, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in which the predominant classroom language was other than English, shall be denied the right to vote in any Federal, State, or local election because of his inability to read, write, understand, or interpret any matter in the English language, except that in States in which State law provides that a different level of education is presumptive of literacy, he shall demonstrate that he has successfully completed an equivalent level of education in a public school in, or a private school accredited by, any State or territory, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in which the predominant classroom language was other than English." 79 Stat. 439, 42 U. S. C. § 1973b (e) (1964 ed., Supp. I).
"Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, after January first, one thousand nine hundred twenty-two, no person shall become entitled to vote by attaining majority, by naturalization or otherwise, unless such person is also able, except for physical disability, to read and write English."
Section 150 of the New York Election Law provides, in pertinent part:
". . . In the case of a person who became entitled to vote in this state by attaining majority, by naturalization or otherwise after January first, nineteen hundred twenty-two, such person must, in addition to the foregoing provisions, be able, except for physical disability, to read and write English. A `new voter,' within the meaning of this article, is a person who, if he is entitled to vote in this state, shall have become so entitled on or after January first, nineteen hundred twenty-two, and who has not already voted at a general election in the state of New York after making proof of ability to read and write English, in the manner provided in section one hundred sixty-eight."
Section 168 of the New York Election Law provides, in pertinent part:
"1. The board of regents of the state of New York shall make provisions for the giving of literacy tests.
"2. . . . But a new voter may present as evidence of literacy a certificate or diploma showing that he has completed the work up to and including the sixth grade of an approved elementary school or of an approved higher school in which English is the language of instruction or a certificate or diploma showing that he has completed the work up to and including the sixth grade in a public school or a private school accredited by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in which school instruction is carried on predominantly in the English language or a matriculation card issued by a college or university to a student then at such institution or a certificate or a letter signed by an official of the university or college certifying to such attendance."
Section 168 of the Election Law as it now reads was enacted while § 4 (e) was under consideration in Congress. See 111 Cong. Rec. 19376-19377. The prior law required the successful completion of the eighth rather than the sixth grade in a school in which the language of instruction was English.
"No court other than the District Court for the District of Columbia. . . shall have jurisdiction to issue . . . any restraining order or temporary or permanent injunction against the . . . enforcement of any provision of this Act or any action of any Federal officer or employee pursuant hereto." 79 Stat. 445, 42 U. S. C. § 1973l (b) (1964 ed., Supp. I).
The Attorney General of the United States was initially named as the sole defendant. The New York City Board of Elections was joined as a defendant after it publicly announced its intention to comply with § 4 (e); it has taken the position in these proceedings that § 4 (e) is a proper exercise of congressional power. The Attorney General of the State of New York has participated as amicus curiae in the proceedings below and in this Court, urging § 4 (e) be declared unconstitutional. The United States was granted leave to intervene as a defendant, 28 U. S. C. § 2403 (1964 ed.); Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 24 (a).
It is therefore unnecessary for us to consider whether § 4 (e) could be sustained as an exercise of power under the Territorial Clause, Art. IV, § 3; see dissenting opinion of Judge McGowan below, 247 F. Supp., at 204; or as a measure to discharge certain treaty obligations of the United States, see Treaty of Paris of 1898, 30 Stat. 1754. 1759; United Nations Charter, Articles 55 and 56; Art. I, § 8, cl. 18. Nor need we consider whether § 4 (e) could be sustained insofar as it relates to the election of federal officers as an exercise of congressional power under Art. I, § 4, see Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162, 171; United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 315; Literacy Tests and Voter Requirements in Federal and State Elections, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on S. 480, S. 2750, and S. 2979, 87th Cong., 2d Sess., 302, 306-311 (1962) (brief of the Attorney General); nor whether § 4 (e) could be sustained, insofar as it relates to the election of state officers, as an exercise of congressional power to enforce the clause guaranteeing to each State a republican form of government, Art. IV, § 4; Art. I, § 8, cl. 18.
"It casts upon Congress the responsibility of seeing to it, for the future, that all the sections of the amendment are carried out in good faith, and that no State infringes the rights of persons or property. I look upon this clause as indispensable for the reason that it thus imposes upon Congress this power and this duty. It enables Congress, in case the States shall enact laws in conflict with the principles of the amendment, to correct that legislation by a formal congressional enactment." Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 2766, 2768 (1866).
This statement of § 5's purpose was not questioned by anyone in the course of the debate. Flack, The Adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment 138 (1908).
"More precious even than the forms of government are the mental qualities of our race. While those stand unimpaired, all is safe. They are exposed to a single danger, and that is that by constantly changing our voting citizenship through the wholesale, but valuable and necessary infusion of Southern and Eastern European races . . . . The danger has begun. . . . We should check it." III New York State Constitutional Convention 3012 (Rev. Record 1916).
See also id., at 3015-3017, 3021-3055. This evidence was reinforced by an understanding of the cultural milieu at the time of proposal and enactment, spanning a period from 1915 to 1921—not one of the enlightened eras of our history. See generally Chafee, Free Speech in the United States 102, 237, 269-282 (1954 ed.). Congress was aware of this evidence. See, e. g., Literacy Tests and Voter Requirements in Federal and State Elections, Senate Hearings, n. 5, supra, 507-513; Voting Rights, House Hearings, n. 3, supra, 508-513.
NEW YORK STATE REGENTS LITERACY TEST
(To be filled in by the candidate in ink)
Read this and then write the answers to the questions Read it as many times as you need to
The legislative branch of the National Government is called the Congress of the United States. Congress makes the laws of the Nation. Congress is composed of two houses. The upper house is called the Senate and its members are called Senators. There are 96 Senators in the upper house, two from each State. Each United States Senator is elected for a term of six years. The lower house of Congress is known as the House of Representatives. The number of Representatives from each state is determined by the population of that state. At present there are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Each Representative is elected for a term of two years. Congress meets in the Capitol at Washington.
The answers to the following questions are to be taken from the above paragraph