14th Amendment, Section 2 (ever implemented?)

The 14th Amendment, Section 2 reads (I’ve edited out the qualifiers)

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers… But when the right to vote … is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State. . . the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion …

Seems to be saying that if any man (including black) is denied the right to vote in state X, that state’s representation in Congress will be reduced proportionately. I.E. As punishment for not allowing blacks to vote, you’ll see your number of seats in congress decrease. Well, the former most assuredly happened, but 14:2 has never been put into effect. Have there ever been attempts to implement it?

I have never heard of any real attempt to reduce the size of a state’s congressional delegation because of denial of voting rights. Most of the activity since the 1950s has been geared towards removing such barriers. I don’t think any of the laws designed to prevent blacks from voting were worded in such an obvious way as to amount to a denial of voting rights. Basically, as such laws were challenged, they were struck down as violations of the 14th amendment and of the Voting Rights Act. For this provision of the amendment to be put into effect, it seems to me that Congress would have to determine that a state had denied people the right to vote in violation of this provision. I have never heard of Congress ever producing such a finding.

Interesting question. Hundreds of people every day lose the right to vote as a result of felony convictions. AFAIK, these are not subtracted from census data in determining representation. One would imagine that felons would be (a) few in number and (b) spread around enough that it wouldn’t make a difference, statistically.

I suspect that poll taxes and literacy tests (with their attendant grandfather clauses) were legislated to avoid invoking that clause.

“Who us? We’re not limiting this man’s right to vote. As soon as he can get past the phalanx of KKK types, outside, and come into the poll and read this document printed in Chinese (to the satisfaction of the election official), he can vote just like anyone else. We certainly do not have any laws that would prohibit a person from voting based on race–that would be unconstitutional.”

Since most of the Jim Crow laws were passed at the end of Reconstruction when the agents of the Federal government got bored and went home (and national attitudes toward blacks had lost the initial anti-slavery momentum and begun to swing toward a general hostility), there was no general effort (and I am unaware of any individual efforts) to challenge the Jim Crow laws as de facto (as opposed to de jure) flouting of the 14th Amendment.

I am just guessing here but it would seem to me that invoking that clause might also be used to furtehr isolate black voters. If, say, Alabama lost a seat or two what districts do you think the state is likely to pull it from? They’d probably expand Whitey’s district to cover some portion of the black population and leave it at that. In effect, this clause could actually further serve to disenfranchise minorities which is probably not its intent.

**Hundreds of people every day lose the right to vote as a result of felony convictions. **

Actually that was one of the qualifiers I stripped out. 14:2 specifically says EXCEPT in cases of “participation in rebellion, or other crime.” I.E. felons don’t count.