Last week, according to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland legislature “narrowly overturned Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to extend voting rights to felons before they complete probation and parole.”
This veto override, even if you disagree with the underlying policy, is an example how state legislatures exercise reserved powers under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.”
It’s time for the people, through their respective states, to exercise another voter-related reserved power: to protect the basic integrity of the voting process in order to avoid conflicts of interest similar to those underlying the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The 27th Amendment was part of the original Bill of Rights proposed on Sept. 25, 1789, which included 12 articles. Only 10 were ratified in December 1789. The 27th Amendment was ratified on May 7, 1992, by the vote of the state of Michigan. It provides precisely what our founders proposed in 1789: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”
This common sense provision is designed to avoid the obvious conflict of interest associated with members of Congress voting for their own pay raises.
But the same type of obvious conflict of interest arises when individual citizens who voluntarily choose to be dependent on public welfare are allowed to vote.
According to one recent Web-post chain email, which the poster suggested is “riddled with ethical issues,” many citizens are voluntarily choosing to go on public welfare because they can realize more money than by working:
How to get $75k in benefits for you and your girlfriend. Follow these proven steps.
1. Don't get married to her.
2. Use your mom's address to get mail sent to.
3. The guy buys a house.
4. Guy rents out house to his girl girlfriend who has 2 of his kids.
5. Section 8 will pay 900 a month for a 3 bedroom home.
6. Girlfriend signs up for Obamacare so guy doesn't have to pay out the butt for family insurance.
7. Girlfriend gets to go to college for free being a single mother.
8. Girlfriend gets 600 a month for food stamps.
9. Girlfriend gets free cell phone.
10. Girlfriend get free utilities.
11. Guy moves into home but uses moms house to get mail sent to.
12. Girlfriend claims one kid and guy claims one kid on taxes. Now you both get to claim head of house hold at $1800 credit.
13. Girlfriend gets disability for being "crazy" or having a "bad back" at $1800 a month and never has to work again.
Included among the “ethical issues” with this fraudulent scheme is the same conflict of interest underlying the 27th Amendment: individuals voluntarily dependent on public welfare, like Member of Congress, should not be allowed to vote themselves “pay raises.”
This recent chain mail example brings home the popular adage that, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
Dr. Adrian Rogers, former three-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached a variant of the same adage in a 1984 sermon: “You don't multiply wealth by dividing it . . . The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don't have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don't get to enjoy the fruits of their labor."
The good news is that the states, through legislation or state constitutional amendments, can and should enact common sense laws to protect the integrity of the voting process.
A “Voter Integrity Amendment” could be as simple as this:
The right to vote in this state shall be conditioned on the citizen not being voluntarily dependent on public welfare, such voluntary dependency presenting the same type of conflict of interest underlying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The legislature of this state shall have the power to enforce this article, and otherwise to ensure the integrity of the voting process, by appropriate legislation.
It’s time for the people, through their respective states, to exercise their power to protect the integrity of their voting processes.
Army veteran Cory Mills added valuable input to this article.
Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is a Partner in the law firm of Schmitz & Socarras LLP. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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