Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Looking at the 14th Amendment

Somewhere in my readings yesterday, I came across a posting where someone had talked about this very interesting clause in the 14th Amendment:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
[Later amendments extended this to women and persons older than 18.]

What this is saying is that when a particular state screws up an election in a way that results in eligible voters having their right to vote denied or "in any way abridged", there is a penalty. The penalty is for that state to lose part of its Congressional delegation, in proportion to how many people were affected. There's no mention of how long the penalty should remain in effect, or how exactly it should be prosecuted, but I think it's high time that this clause start being used. There is altogether too much hanky panky going on in elections these days: from computerized balloting systems that fail to count the votes accurately, to partisan electoral officials illegally disposing of ballots, to political party operatives distributing deceptive leaflets to scare people away from the polls. A line needs to be drawn, and I don't think it's at all unreasonable to draw that line in the position of, "Run a mean, nasty, dirty, expensive campaign if you really must, but don't tamper with the votes, and don't mess with the voters."


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