United States v. Gradwell,
243 U.S. 476 (1917)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Gradwell, 243 U.S. 476 (1917)

United States v. Gradwell

Nos. 683, 684, 775, 776

Argued March 16, 1917

Decided April 9, 1917

243 U.S. 476


A conspiracy to influence a congressional election by bribery of voters is not a conspiracy to defraud the United States within the meaning of § 37 of the Penal Code, formerly § 5440 of the Revised Statutes.

Quaere whether the power of Congress to regulate elections of Senators and Representatives, Const., Art. I, § 4, is applicable to a general nominating primary, as distinguished from a final election?

The primary election law of West Virginia, Acts 1915, c. 26, pp. 222, 246, provides that only candidates belonging to a political party which polled three percent of the vote of the state at the last preceding general election can be voted for, excludes independent and other voters not regular and qualified members and voters of such a party from participation in the primary, and further provides that, after the primary, candidates, including persons who have failed therein, may be nominated by certificate signed by not less than five percent of the entire vote of the last preceding election. Held that the rights which candidates for nomination for the office of Senator of the United States may have in such a primary come wholly from the state law, and a conspiracy to deprive them of such rights by debauching the primary with illegal votes for an opposing candidate is not within the scope of § 19 of the Penal Code (formerly Rev.Stats., § 5508) designed for the protection of rights and privileges secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Page 243 U. S. 477

The Federal Corrupt Practices Act, and amendments (c. 392, 36 Stat. 822; c. 33, 37 Stat. 25; c. 349, 37 Stat. 360), recognizing primay elections and limiting the expenditures of candidates for Senator in connection with them, are not in effect an adoption of all state primary laws as acts of Congress.

The temporary measure enacted by Congress for the conduct of the nomination and election of Senators until other provision should be made by state legislation (c. 103, 38 Stat. 384) was superseded as to West Virginia by the primary law of that February 20, 1914, effective ninety days after its passage.

234 F. 446, 236 F. 993, affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion.

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