Article I, Section 2, Clause 1:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
It was the original constitutional scheme to vest the determination of qualifications for electors in congressional elections1 solely in the discretion of the states, save only for the express requirement that the states could prescribe no qualifications other than those provided for voters for the more numerous branch of the legislature.2 This language has never been expressly changed, but the discretion of the states – and not only with regard to the qualifications of congressional electors – has long been circumscribed by express constitutional limitations3 and by judicial decisions.4 Further, beyond the limitation of discretion on the part of the states, Congress has assumed the power, with judicial acquiescence, to legislate to provide qualifications at least with regard to some elections.5 Thus, in the Voting Rights Act of 19656 Congress legislated changes of a limited nature in the literacy laws of some of the States,7 and in the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 19708 Congress successfully lowered the minimum voting age in federal elections9 and prescribed residency qualifications for presidential elections,10 the Court striking down an attempt to lower the minimum voting age for all elections.11 These developments greatly limited the discretion granted in Article I, § 2, cl. 1, and are more fully dealt with in the treatment of § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Notwithstanding the vesting of discretion to prescribe voting qualifications in the states, conceptually the right to vote for United States Representatives is derived from the Federal Constitution,12 and Congress has had the power under Article I, § 4, to legislate to protect that right against both official13 and private denial.14