The Elections Clause: States’ Primary Constitutional Authority Over Elections

Republicans believe that every eligible voter who wants to vote must be able to do so, and all lawful votes must be counted according to state law. Through an examination of history, precedent, the Framers' words, debates concerning ratification, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution itself, this document explains the constitutional division of power envisioned by the Framers between the States and the federal government with respect to election administration. Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution explains that the States have the primary authority over election administration, the "times, places, and manner of holding elections". Conversely, the Constitution grants the Congress a purely secondary role to alter or create election laws only in the extreme cases of invasion, legislative neglect, or obstinate refusal to pass election laws. As do other aspects of our federal system, this division of sovereignty continues to serve to protect one of Americans' most precious freedoms, the right to vote.