What effect did the ratification of the 15th Amendment (prohibit the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude) and the 19th Amendment (prohibit the denial of the right to vote based on sex) to the U.S. Constitution have on the number of representatives in the U.S. House?

In other words, were the affected populations considered in allocating Representatives before they were granted the right to vote?

1 Answer 1


The 19th amendment did not have any effect on allocating Representatives, as women were always counted. Similarly, children count, even though they can't vote. So the 26th amendment (which set the voting age to no higher than 18) didn't change the allocation either.

The 15th amendment also did not change the allocation. But that's because the 13th and 14th amendments did. From the 14th:

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

The 13th amendment eliminated slavery, so in the original text of Article I Section 2 of the constitution:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The former slaves would have been counted as free persons. Arguably that was sufficient, but the 14th amendment went further and made it explicit.

Note that while the three fifths is often pointed to as a sign of racism, it was actually the racist South that preferred that number be one. It was the more abolitionist North that argued that the South shouldn't get extra Representatives for slaves who weren't allowed to vote.

A more modern version of this is the counting of immigrants who can't vote (particularly those who are undocumented) for the purpose of allocating Representatives. But that is less obviously partisan. California, Arizona, and Texas all benefit from counting immigrants while states like Iowa and Montana have reduced representation as a result. Whomever does the census tends to control how immigrants are counted. In 2010, that was the Obama administration. In 2020, it will be the Trump administration.

  • Thanks for the excellent answer (thanks also for the edit to my question - I know better!). Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 17:28
  • Whomever does the census tends to control how immigrants are counted. I would have thought that is determined by law. Do you have a source for that?
    – Thomas
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 2:05
  • @Thomas See Evenwel v. Abbott. The law does not prohibit counting illegal aliens. Nor did that case hold that it required counting illegal aliens. Unless future cases limit it further, that is currently discretionary.
    – Brythan
    Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 14:57

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