U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 9 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 779 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

consolidated the cases for argument. See 512 U. S. 1218 (1994). We now affirm.


As the opinions of the Arkansas Supreme Court suggest, the constitutionality of Amendment 73 depends critically on the resolution of two distinct issues. The first is whether the Constitution forbids States to add to or alter the qualifications specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The second is, if the Constitution does so forbid, whether the fact that Amendment 73 is formulated as a ballot access restriction rather than as an outright disqualification is of constitutional significance. Our resolution of these issues draws upon our prior resolution of a related but distinct issue: whether Congress has the power to add to or alter the qualifications of its Members.

Twenty-six years ago, in Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S. 486 (1969), we reviewed the history and text of the Qualifications Clauses 2 in a case involving an attempted exclusion

2 As we explained, that term may describe more than the provisions quoted, supra, at 783:

"In addition to the three qualifications set forth in Art. I, 2, Art. I, 3, cl. 7, authorizes the disqualification of any person convicted in an impeachment proceeding from 'any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States'; Art. I, 6, cl. 2, provides that 'no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office'; and 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies any person 'who, having previously taken an oath . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.' It has been argued that each of these provisions, as well as the Guarantee Clause of Article IV and the oath requirement of Art. VI, cl. 3, is no less a 'qualification' within the meaning of Art. I, 5, than those set forth in Art. I, 2." Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S. 486, 520, n. 41 (1969).

In Powell, we saw no need to resolve the question whether those additional provisions constitute "qualifications," because "both sides agree that Powell was not ineligible under any of these provisions." Ibid. We similarly have no need to resolve that question today: Because those additional provisions are part of the text of the Constitution, they have little bearing


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