State and Local Elections

Most of the state and local level public officials in the U.S. are elected directly or indirectly.  An election is the process by which people choose their representatives for governance.  In the U.S., each state controls and regulates state and local elections.  State law and state constitutions regulate elections at the state and local level.  The state legislature controls state laws and state constitutions.  Every state is free to conduct its elections and limit its electorate.  State legislatures and the executive are elected separately.  In all states, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected.  Additionally, all members of the state legislatures are elected.  The legislative branches in local level, county, and city government are filled by election.  Sheriffs and Mayors at the local level are also elected

State laws regulating elections must not be in conflict with the Federal Constitution or the powers exercised by the national government.  Moreover, the U.S. Constitution[i] prohibits states from enforcing laws which abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U S.  The Constitution specifically interdicts any denial or abridgement by a state of the right of citizens to vote on account of color.  The states are authorized by the Constitution to legislate on election issues to the extent that Congress has not restricted state action[ii].

Generally Congress has no power to regulate elections at the state or local level.  The Fifteenth Amendment has constituted the primary basis for congressional legislation and federal intervention with respect to state elections.  Congressional legislation is restricted to the prevention by appropriate legislation of discrimination based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.  The Fifteenth Amendment provides that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude[iii].  Unless the conduct complained of is not grounded on race, color or previous condition of servitude, Congress has no power under the Fifteenth Amendment to punish the intimidation of voters in state elections.

The right to vote in the states comes from the states[iv].  However, the right of exemption from the prohibited discrimination comes from the U S.  The right to vote is not granted or secured by the Constitution of the U.S.  The right of exemption from prohibited discrimination is secured by the Constitution.

Moreover, when federal and state candidates are together on the same ballot, Congress is entitled to regulate activities exposing the federal election to the possibility of corruption.

[i] USCS Const. Amend. 14, § 1.

[ii] Or. v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 121 (U.S. 1970).

[iii] Ar v. Haw., 314 F.3d 1091, 1094 (9th Cir. Haw. 2002).

[iv] Lackey v. United States, 107 F. 114 (6th Cir. Ky. 1901).


Inside State and Local Elections