Who Runs Local Elections?
As we found out in 2008, no one in the entire federal bureaucracy is specifically charged with the job of establishing the constitutional eligibility of either presidential candidates or winners of presidential elections.
It was this startling revelation — almost unbelievable when you consider how many federal employees and agencies have almost no meaningful or constitutional work to do — that made me a "birther." If there is any reason for the Federal Elections Commission to exist, for instance, you would think it would be to determine eligibility of those seeking federal office. But, as so often happens when it comes to Washington and common-sense suppositions, that's just not the case.
It was that discovery that motivated me to lead the campaign to force Barack Obama to produce that proof and to ensure that future presidential elections are not so tainted.
During this process of discovery, we heard from many members of Congress and the federal government officials who pointed that it is the responsibility of states to conduct elections. Therefore, it's the duty of state officials to determine who gets on the ballot.
Of course, nobody bothered to let the states know that it was their job to establish eligibility for presidential candidates, so not one secretary of state or voting official in any of the 50 states did so in 2008. In fact, the only eligibility check that was performed in 2008 was one by the Senate, which examined John McCain's long-form birth certificate and other evidence to determine that he was good to go.
I recap all that background not for a discussion of the constitutional eligibility question, but for the purposes of exploring another story entirely. I recently became aware of a stunning development in Kinston, N.C. Voters in that town decided overwhelmingly in a 2008 referendum to eliminate partisan voting. In other words, ballots would not identify local candidates by party affiliation.
Seemed like a reasonable decision. Thousands of local U.S. governments operate this way. After all, we're always hearing how our politics is "too partisan." Here's a town that decided to do something about it. What do you suppose happened next?
The busybodies at the U.S. Justice Department overruled the popular will of the people of Kinston, N.C.! That's what happened. Why?
The federal government charged that partisan elections were necessary, so blacks in Kinston could more easily determine who to vote for — meaning Democrats.
Now, keep in mind that about two-thirds of Kinston is black. Voters overwhelmingly, 2-to-1, chose to support the referendum — both white and black. An unusually high percentage of voters turned out for this little exercise in self-government — 11,000 out of 15,000.
But the U.S. Justice Department knows better than the people of Kinston what is best for them. The Justice Department ruled Aug. 17 that Kinston's elections needed to remain partisan because the all-wise, all-knowing federal officials determined the "effect will be strictly racial."
Is that unbelievable? Hold on to your hats. It gets worse.
When the city council of Kinston capitulated to the will of Washington rather than challenge the federal government's usurpation of its citizens' authority, several residents of the town — including two Republican candidates for city council — picked up the gauntlet. In a lawsuit, they challenged as unconstitutional a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that requires Justice Department approval for some 12,000 almost exclusively Southern voting districts to get U.S. approval before making any changes to voting procedures.
Guess what happened next? Federal Judge John D. Bates ruled the citizens bringing the challenge didn't have standing. Think about that: Ordinary voters in Kinston don't have standing to determine how they will govern themselves, but officials in Washington do and federal judges do.
In the big scheme of things, how the people of Kinston conduct their local elections is not a matter of concern to most people. But if the federal government has the constitutional power to set rules for how local elections are conducted based on their anticipated outcomes, then that is a matter of grave concern to all of us.
It means we no longer are a self-governing people — not even at the local level. It means Washington has total authority over citizens and even local governments. It means the Constitution and American civics has just been turned upside down and inside out to suit the whim of faceless, nameless, unaccountable bureaucrats and out-of-control, activist judges.
Tying it all together, let me see if I have this straight: Washington has no role whatsoever in determining whether presidential candidates and presidents-elect are constitutionally eligible to serve. But Washington has total control over the conduct of local elections in cities and towns across America. Do I have this about right?
To find out more about Joseph Farah and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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