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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
Patrick B. Classic et al.
Decided By 
(argued the cause for the United States)
(argued the cause for the appellees)
Facts of the Case 

Two federal indictments were brought against Patrick B. Classic and five other election commissioners for the Louisiana second congressional district alleging conspiracy and corruption in the Democratic primary contest for U.S. Representative. The charges stated that the commissioners willfully miscounted and altered ballots cast in the primary. A federal statute makes it a crime to deny citizens rights guaranteed to them under the U.S. Constitution, and this includes the right to choose representatives. The defendants successfully challenged the indictment, citing the 1921 decision Newberry v. United States which held that primaries were not subject to the same Congressional oversight as general elections.


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.

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UNITED STATES v. CLASSIC. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1940/1940_618>.
UNITED STATES v. CLASSIC, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1940/1940_618 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. CLASSIC," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1940/1940_618.