Let the States Decide! Say Yes to ID for VotersPosted: August 31, 2016
Let the States Decide! Say Yes to ID for Voters
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Elections are important. Will the elected individual perform according to the oath of office? Or will he or she avoid constitutional restraints and hope voters won’t realize the betrayal?
Our nation’s founders strongly believed that voting in any election for a federal post should be limited. Not everyone should vote, and limitations about who will cast a ballot should be set, not by the national government but by each state. With a few exceptions, states would decide not only who would vote but also when voting day would occur. For many years, Maine’s voters cast their ballots in September, a practice later changed to conform with the rest of the country. Over the years, several amendments to the Constitution removed many other original restrictions.
Amendment XV (1913) banned denying the privilege of voting because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Amendment XIX (1920) gave women the right to vote. Amendment XXIV (1964) said no eligible voter could be denied a ballot for not paying a poll tax. And Amendment XXVI (1971) lowered the voting age to 18.
These changes were properly enacted via amendments to the Constitution, not by any law or presidential executive order. In recent years, however, the federal government has broadened its dominance over the setting of voter qualifications without relying on the amendment process. Judicial power has also been used to set new rules, even cancelling voter requirements that are logical and, in this writer’s view, very much needed.
Some require would-be voters to produce photo identification before being given a ballot. Objections arose over this rather simple and sensible test because, it has been claimed, requiring a photo ID is costly for some and an inconvenience for others. As in many other instances, the charge of racism was used to foster change. It helped to convince a Texas judge and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Texas requirement for a photo ID must be abolished because it violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Texas law and similar laws in other states seeking to protect the voting process from fraud were erased. Yet, a person has to show a photo ID to board an airplane or cash a check. Shouldn’t there be that kind of requirement for voting?
Is there any recourse to reverse this decision? The Constitution contains the answer in Article III, Section 2, Clause 2. It says Congress can limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court whenever it decides that the high court or lesser federal courts have gone too far. Such a little used and little known provision of the Constitution could be employed to rein in federal judges, even up to the Supreme Court level. This constitutional power possessed by Congress is an obvious extension of the desire of the Founders to create a system possessed of “checks and balances.”
Shortly after the 1787 Constitution had been written and was being considered by the states for ratification, John Marshall (who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835) addressed the potential for judicial abuse during the Virginia’s ratifying discussions. He explained, “Congress is empowered to make exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction, as to law and fact, of the Supreme Court. These exceptions certainly go as far as the legislature may think proper for the interest and liberty of the people.” Marshall obviously believed that Congress would, when necessary, use its constitutionally authorized power to keep the Supreme Court and any lower federal courts from overreaching.
Congress should use its Article III power to stop judicial meddling. Let the states decide via the Tenth Amendment what a would-be voter must provide before being given a ballot.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.