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Term limits, Qualifications Clauses, Congress, Supreme Court, Originalism


This Essay is divided into five Parts. Part I sets the stage for the historical debate by evaluating the text of the Qualifications Clauses as well as the limited evidence of what the Framers and the ratifiers thought about these provisions. Part II shows that many states, immediately after the federal Constitution was ratified, behaved as though the Qualifications Clauses did not prevent them from adding qualifications for congressional office-holding. Part III compares this early evidence of state behavior with a debate in Congress after the Civil War concerning the meaning of the Qualifications Clauses. Part IV returns to the twentieth century, evaluating the historical evidence in light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Powell v. McCormack and Storer v. Brown, and questioning whether other theories of constitutional interpretation better fit the resolution of the Thornton case. Finally, Part V, the conclusion, notes other state laws which are now presumptively unconstitutional, and poses a hypothetical "next case" of the convicted felon prevented by state law from appearing on the ballot for Congress.

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Virginia Law Review