Wiley v. Sinkler
Annotate this Case
179 U.S. 58 (1900)
U.S. Supreme Court
Wiley v. Sinkler, 179 U.S. 58 (1900)
Wiley v. Sinkler
Argued December 8, 1899
Decided October 15, 1900
179 U.S. 58
The right to vote for members of Congress is not derived merely from the constitution and laws of the state in which they are chosen, but has its foundation in the Constitution and laws of the United States.
The circuit court of the United States has jurisdiction of an action brought against election officers of a state to recover damages, alleged to exceed the sum of $2,000, for refusing the plaintiff's vote for a member of Congress.
In an action against election officers of the State of South Carolina for refusing the plaintiff's vote at an election, the declaration must allege that the plaintiff was a registered voter, as is required by the constitution and laws of the state.
This was an action brought March 11, 1895, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of South Carolina, by a resident of the City of Charleston in that state, against the board of managers of a general election at a ward and precinct in that city, to recover damages in the sum of $2,500 for wrongfully and willfully rejecting his vote for a member of the House of Representatives of the United States for the State of South Carolina on November 6, 1894. The allegations of the complaint were as follows:
"I. That the plaintiff is and was on the 6th day of November, 1894, a resident of the City and County of Charleston, in the State of South Carolina, and that he had been a resident of said state for a period of more than twelve months next preceding said 6th day of November, 1894, and a resident of said city and county for more than sixty days next preceding said day, and that, under the Constitution and laws of the said State of South Carolina and the Constitution and laws of the United States, the said plaintiff is, and was at the time aforesaid, twenty-one years of age, and is and was in every other respect a duly qualified elector of said state, and is and was on the said 6th day
of November, 1894, entitled to vote for a member of the House of Representatives of the United States from said State of South Carolina."
"II. That the defendants were on the day and year aforesaid the board of managers of the federal election at the first election precinct in the sixth ward of said City of Charleston, in said county and state; that, as the plaintiff has been informed and believes, the said defendants were duly appointed and qualified as such managers, and that they were present at the polling place in the said election precinct on the said 6th day of November, 1894, and during all the time the polls were opened on said day were there, acting as such board of managers of the federal election."
"III. That the proper election precinct at which the said plaintiff was entitled to vote is the said first precinct in the sixth ward of the city and County of Charleston, in the state aforesaid, and that, on the said 6th day of November, 1894, and while the polls were open for voting purposes, the said plaintiff presented himself at the polling place in said election precinct, and then and there offered to vote and cast his ballot for one of the candidates for the office of member of the House of Representatives of the United States for the State of South Carolina in the Fifty-fourth Congress, and the plaintiff further avers that he then and there had ready the proof of his qualifications as such federal elector as aforesaid."
"IV. That the said defendants unlawfully, willfully, and injuriously refused to permit the said plaintiff to vote at said precinct and at said federal election which was there held according to law, on said 6th day of November, 1894, for one of the candidates for member of said House of Representatives of the United States for the state aforesaid, and wrongfully and willfully, and without any lawful cause or excuse, rejected the plaintiff's said vote, to his damage two thousand and five hundred dollars."
"Wherefore the plaintiff demands judgment against the defendants for the said sum of two thousand and five hundred dollars, and for the costs of this action."
The defendants demurred to the complaint upon the following grounds:
First. That the court had no jurisdiction of the action, because it did not affirmatively appear on the face of the complaint that a federal question was involved and because it appeared on the face of the complaint that a verdict for $2,000 would be so excessive that the court would be required to set it aside.
Second. That the complaint did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, because, by section 2008 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, an action must be brought for a penalty, and not for damages, and because the complaint did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, either under that statute or at common law.
The court, without considering the other grounds, sustained the demurrer and dismissed the complaint because it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action in that it failed to state that the plaintiff was a duly registered voter of the State of South Carolina. The plaintiff sued out a writ of error from this Court.
The material parts of the Constitution and laws of South Carolina, referred to in argument, are stated in the margin. *
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