Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651; 4 S. Ct. 152; 28 L. Ed. 274 (1884)

Facts—Yarbrough and others were convicted in a federal court for having conspired to intimidate a black person from voting for a member of Congress, in violation of the federal statutes.

Question—May Congress punish violations of election laws under the Constitution?


ReasonsJ. Miller (9–0). “That a government whose essential character is republican, whose executive head and legislative body are both elective, whose most numerous and powerful branch of the legislature is elected by the people directly, has no power to appropriate laws to secure this election from the influence of violence, of corruption, and of fraud, is a proposition so startling as to arrest attention and demand the gravest consideration.” If this government “is anything more than a mere aggregation of delegated agents of other states and governments, each of which is superior to the general government, it must have the power to protect the elections on which its existence depends from violence and corruption.” The Court has never adhered to the proposition that every power of Congress must be expressly granted. The right to vote in a congressional election is not dependent upon each state . . . for the office is one “created by the Constitution and by that alone. It also declares how it shall be filled, namely: by elections. If the Government of the United States has within its constitutional domain no authority to provide against these evils it will be at the mercy of the combinations of those who respect no right but brute force, on the one hand, and unprincipled corruptionists on the other.”

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