Known House Cases Involving Qualifications for Membership

“Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members . . . “— U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 5, clause 1

The following is a historical list of cases in which the House of Representatives has examined the qualifications of Members-elect to serve in the House for either constitutional or personal reasons. This list presents known instances in which the House has formally debated whether or not to seat a Member-elect.

The U.S. Constitution has very few qualifications for service in the House, requiring only that a Member be at least 25 years old, that he or she has been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years at the time of election, and that the Member is a resident of the state from which he or she was elected. Historically, however, the House has also considered cases involving issues that fell beyond the qualifications specified by the Constitution. That changed in 1969 when the Supreme Court declared that the House could not bar from service a Member who had been “duly elected by the voters . . . and was not ineligible to serve under any provision of the Constitution.”

In many of the cases, the results of the elections were challenged by an opponent and were referred to a House committee for investigation. Of the more than 400 contested elections cases in House history, however, most have not featured questions of qualification, but have instead involved claims of election fraud or voting irregularities. Please note, that within this large number of contested election cases, there may be other instances in which the House has questioned whether a Member-elect meets the constitutional or personal qualifications to serve in the House.

Each case includes a citation for the most recent or most relevant House committee report identifying the investigating committee and detailing its inquiry.

CongressNameState/
Territory
GroundsConclusionDocumentation
1st (1789–1791)William Loughton SmithSCCitizenshipAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Contested Election of William Smith, a Representative from South Carolina, 1st Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 6 (1789)
10th (1807–1809)Philip Barton KeyMDResidencyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Contested Election of Philip Barton Key, a Representative from Maryland, 10th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 233 (1807)
10th (1807–1809)William McCreeryMDResidencyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Contested Election of William McCreery, a Representative from Maryland, 10th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 232 (1807)
18th (1823–1825)Gabriel RichardMichigan TerritoryCitizenshipAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Report of the Committee on Elections on the Petition of John Biddle, Contesting the Election of Gabriel Richard, 18th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 27 (1824)
18th (1823–1825)John BaileyMAResidencyExcludedHouse Committee on Elections, Report of the Committee of Elections, to whom was referred the petition of sundry citizens of the District of Norfolk, in the State of Massachusetts, remonstrating against the return of John Bailey, Esq. as a representative of said district, in the 18th Congress, 18th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 67 (1824)
18th (1823–1825)John ForsythGAResidencyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Report of the Committee of Elections, to whom was referred the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 25th ultimo, instructing them to report whether any other members returned to this House "were not, at the time of their election, inhabitants of the state from which they were respectively returned," 18th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 77 (1824)
27th (1841–1842)David Levy (later David Levy Yulee)Florida TerritoryCitizenshipAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, David Levy, 27th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 10 (1841)
34th (1855–1857)Lyman TrumbullILIncompatible officeResigned1House Committee on Elections, Turney vs. Marshall and Fouke vs. Trumbull, 34th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 194 (1856)
34th (1855–1857)Samuel Scott MarshallILIncompatible officeAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Turney vs. Marshall and Fouke vs. Trumbull, 34th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 194 (1856)
36th (1859–1860)John Young BrownKYAgeAdmitted when he turned 25N/A2
40th (1867–1869)William Henry HooperUtah TerritoryPolygamy; vote fraudAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, McGrorty vs. Hooper, 40th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 79 (1868)
40th (1867–1869)Lawrence Strother TrimbleKYLoyaltyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, G.G. Symes vs. L.S. Trimble, 40th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 6 (1868)
40th (1867–1869)John Young BrownKYLoyaltyExcludedHouse Committee on Elections, Samuel E. Smith vs. John Young Brown, 40th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 11 (1868)
40th (1867–1869)John Duncan YoungKYLoyaltyExcludedHouse Committee on Elections, Samuel McKee vs. John D. Young, 40th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 29 (1868)
40th (1867–1869)Roderick Randum ButlerTNLoyaltyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, R.R. Butler, 40th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 18 (1868)
41st (1869–1871)William D. SimpsonSCLoyaltyExcludedHouse Committee on Elections, Wallace vs. Simpson, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 17 (1870)
41st (1869–1871)John McConnell RiceKYLoyaltyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, John L. Zeigler vs. John M. Rice, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 107 (1870)
41st (1869–1871)Lewis McKenzieVALoyaltyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Whittlesey vs. McKenzie, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 75 (1870)
41st (1869–1871)George William BookerVALoyaltyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, George Tucker vs. Geo. Booker, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 41 (1870)
41st (1869–1871)Benjamin Franklin WhittemoreSCMalfeasance ExcludedHouse Committee on Military Affairs, B.F. Whittemore, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 29 (1870)
41st (1869–1871)John Coggswell ConnerTXVote fraud; personal characterAdmittedHouse of Representatives Misc. Documents, Papers in the Contested Election Case of Grafton vs. Conner in the Second Congressional District of Texas, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., Misc. Doc. 144 (1870)3
43rd (1873–1875)George Quayle CannonUtah TerritoryVote fraud; polygamyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, George R. Maxwell vs. George Q. Cannon-Contested Election, Territory of Utah, 43rd Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 484 (1874)
43rd (1873–1875)George Quayle CannonUtah TerritoryPolygamyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, George Q. Cannon, Delegate from Utah, 43rd Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 106 (1875)
47th (1881–1883)John Strode BarbourVAResidency; vote fraudAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Contested Election Case of Bayley vs. Barbour, 47th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 1040 (1882)
47th (1881–1883)George Quayle CannonUtah TerritoryCitizenship; polygamy; vote fraudSeat vacatedHouse Committee on Elections, Cannon vs. Campbell, Contested Election Case from the Territory of Utah, 47th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 559 (1882)
48th (1883–1885)Samuel Ritter PetersKSIncompatible officeAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, S.N. Wood vs. S.R. Peters, 48th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 794 (1884)
50th (1887–1889)James Bain WhiteINCitizenship; vote fraudAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections, Lowry vs. White, 50th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 163 (1888)
56th (1899–1901)Robert W. WilcoxHawaii TerritoryBigamy; treasonAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections No. 1, Charges against Robert W. Wilcox, 56th Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 3001 (1901)
56th (1899–1901)Brigham H. RobertsUTPolygamyExcludedHouse Special Committee on the Case of Brigham H. Roberts, Case of Brigham H. Roberts, of Utah, 56th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 85 (1900)
59th (1905–1907)Anthony MichalekILCitizenshipAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections No. 1, Anthony Michalek Case, 59th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 2117 (1906)
66th (1919–1921)Victor Luitpold BergerWISeditionExcludedHouse Special Committee on Victor L. Berger Investigation, Case of Victor L. Berger, of Wisconsin, 66th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 413 (1919)
66th (1919–1921)Victor Luitpold BergerWISeditionExcludedHouse Committee on Elections No. 1, Bodenstab v. Berger, 66th Cong., 3rd sess., H. Rept. 1300 (1921)
69th (1925–1927)John Wesley LangleyKYCriminal misconductResignedHouse Select Committee Appointed to Consider the Qualifications of John W. Langley, Report of Select Committee Appointed to Consider the Qualifications of John W. Langley, 69th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 30 (1925)
70th (1927–1929)James Montgomery BeckPAResidencyAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections No. 2, James M. Beck Election Case, 70th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 975 (1928)
71st (1929–1931)Ruth Bryan OwenFLCitizenshipAdmittedHouse Committee on Elections No. 1, William C. Lawson-Ruth Bryan Owen Election Case, 71st Cong., 2nd sess., H. Rept. 968 (1930)
90th (1967–1969)Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.NYMisconductExcludedHouse Select Committee Pursuant to H. Res. 1, In Re Adam Clayton Powell, 90th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 27 (1967)

Footnotes

1Resigned before the House convened, having been elected Senator.

2John Young Brown was constitutionally too young on the opening day of the 36th Congress (December 5, 1859) at the age of 24; he was later seated on the first day of the 2nd session (December 3, 1860) when he was 25.

3According to the House Journal, the Committee on Elections issued a report claiming B. F. Grafton (John C. Conner’s challenger) was not entitled to the seat. But the report is not available in published House records. See, House Journal, 41st Cong., 2nd sess. (15 July 1870): 1277.