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Republicans Continue to Attack Freedom
Monday, 2006 October 2 - 8:41 am
Two more anti-constitutional bits of legislation from our beloved government.

Anti-constitutional measure 1: the House of Representatives approved a bill that would require a photo ID in order to vote in 2008, and photographic proof of citizenship to vote in 2010. Republicans claimed this was a way to cut down on voter fraud, but the real result is to make voting more difficult for certain groups of people, particularly the poor and elderly, who tend to vote Democratic. "This bill is tantamount to a 21st century poll tax," said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "It will disenfranchise large number of legal voters.

I'd like to hear some lawyers speak up about this. In my limited legal view, the legislation (as written) is unconstitutional. Although there's a clause that people who can't afford an ID will be provided one by the government, there's no definition of exactly how poor one must be to qualify for the free ID. With such a vague clause, I believe that the legislation does amount to a poll tax, and is therefore unconstitutional under the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. From Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. 528:
It has long been established that a State may not impose a penalty upon those who exercise a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Frost & Frost Trucking Co. v. Railroad Comm'n of California, 271 U.S. 583. "Constitutional rights would be of little value if they could be . . . indirectly denied," Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 664, or "manipulated out of existence." Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 345. Significantly, the Twenty-fourth Amendment does not merely insure that the franchise shall not be "denied" by reason of failure to pay the poll tax; it expressly guarantees that the right to vote shall not be "denied or abridged" for that reason. Thus, like the Fifteenth Amendment, the Twenty-fourth "nullifies sophisticated as well as simple-minded modes" of impairing [380 U.S. 528, 541] the right guaranteed. Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268, 275. "It hits onerous procedural requirements which effectively handicap exercise of the franchise" by those claiming the constitutional immunity. Ibid.; cf. Gray v. Johnson, 234 F. Supp. 743 (D.C. S. D. Miss.).
Onerous procedural requirements that abridge the 24th amendment? That's what this exactly what this bill represents.

No doubt, when the law is overturned in the Courts, cries of "judicial activism" will go up. Hey, if that's what it takes to curb Congress when it oversteps its bounds and threatens our basic rights, then please, judges, open up a can of judicial whoop-ass on them.

Anti-constitutional measure 2: Congress just approved a bill that would suspend habeas corpus rights for "enemy combatants" in the "war on terror". Habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is the right for prisoners to contest their incarceration in front of a judge, and our Constitution expressly states: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." (Article One, Section Nine.)

During Congressional debate, when this point was brought up, I heard a Republican senator remark that we are under invasion, as of 9/11.

Um.

So are we also under invasion from Mexico, allowing us to suspend habeas corpus for suspected illegal immigrants? Are we under invasion by drug smugglers, allowing us to suspend habeas corpus for drug dealers? Are we under invasion by Europeans, allowing us to suspend habeas corpus for men who wear Speedos at the beach?

I'm sure "invasion" had a very specific meaning to the Founding Fathers, and a terrorist strike, no matter how heinous, does not qualify as an "invasion".

The whole point of habeas corpus is to prevent the government from arbitrarily arresting people and holding them without due process of law. It seems that the Bush administration is intent on giving itself the right to arbitrary action. National Security Letters allow the government to bypass Miranda rights. The Guantanamo Bay prison keeps prisoners out of reach of most U.S. laws. And now one of the few remaining rights that those prisoners had, the right to a writ of habeas corpus, is being stripped away.

Republicans argue that terrorists are abusing the system, tying up courts with habeas corpus cases. Tying up the courts? Well, in that case, why not establish more courts, perhaps even courts dedicated to hearing cases of this sort?

No, the real intent here is to strip power away from the judiciary. So this is also a separation-of-powers violation.

Have we Americans become so blinded by the war on terror that we really can't see our rights being whittled away, bit by bit? Are we buying this because only Muslims are being targeted?

How long before the government comes for you?
Permalink  2 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: politics

Comments

Comment #1 from Timothy Ross (Guest)
2006 Oct 2 - 5:14 pm : #
When they came for the Muslims I did not speak because I was not a Muslim...
Comment #2 from Crouching Hamster (Guest)
2006 Oct 3 - 12:01 am : #
This administration only has two years left, and its party may soon lose majority in Congress. I think they're trying to pass as much as they can right now. And most of it is crap.

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