United States v. Reese

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UNITED STATES V. REESE, 92 U.S. 214 (1876), was the first significant voting rights case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Fifteenth Amendment. The Court struck down the Enforcement Act of 1870 because one of its sections permitted federal prosecution for refusal to accept votes without limiting the offense to denials based on race or prior condition of slavery. "The Fifteenth Amendment does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one," Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite stated. Reese enabled the southern states to deny the vote to blacks on seemingly nonracial grounds, such as literacy, and thus was the foundation for later black disfranchisement.


Gillette, William. Retreat from Reconstruction, 1869–1879. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.

Stephenson, D. Grier. "The Supreme Court, the Franchise, and the Fifteenth Amendment: The First Sixty Years." University of Missouri Kansas City Law Review 57 (1988): 47–65.

William M.Wiecek

See alsoForce Acts ; Voter Registration .


United States v. Reese