Katzenbach v. Morgan

384 U.S. 641 (1966)


A New York statute required that anyone who wished to register to vote had to be able to read and write English. In 1965, Congress passed a Voting Rights Act that provided that a person who had at least a sixth-grade education in Puerto Rico in Spanish was eligible to vote. Morgan (P) was a registered voter in the city of New York. He challenged this federal statute as opposing the state statute. He claimed that several hundred thousand Puerto Rican immigrants would be denied voting by the state law, but reinstated by the federal law. New York's Attorney General argued that the federal legislation could take precedence over the state statute only if the state violated the fourteenth amendment. He also claimed that the federal legislation violated the fourteenth amendment since it discriminated between non-English speaking people in Puerto Rico and non-English speaking people from other countries. A three-judge district court was designated. The court granted the declaratory and injunctive relief appellees sought. The court held that, in enacting § 4(e), Congress exceeded the powers granted to it by the Constitution, and therefore usurped powers reserved to the States by the Tenth Amendment. The United States Attorney General, Katzenbach (D), appealed.