Pesky Constitution gets in politics’ way again

As the ladies and gentlemen who are the bonus babies at AIG may well discover, those who stand between politicians and re-election — be they individuals or principles — are certain to be trampled.

Such was the case in the lead-up to the 2006 elections when Congress stampeded a 25-year extension of “emergency” provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were to expire in 2007. Not the Voting Rights Act itself, mind you; The “temporary” provisions put in place 41 years earlier.

Under Section 5, Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and all but 11 counties in Virginia are required to get U.S. Justice Department approval for proposed changes in election law.

In a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, a Texas utility district with no history of discrimination that was first created in 1987 sued to challenge the extension and whether its election laws should be subject to Justice Department oversight. The case will be argued next month. The extension of Section 5 oversight came not because anything discriminatory in the covered states warranted it, but because no politician in one of the states not covered dared risk alienating any constituency.

It’s the occasional embarrassment of democracy that, as we are witnessing with the AIG bonuses, politics trumps the Constitution, fairness and common sense. That applies equally to Republicans and Democrats, including President George W. Bush, who signed the 25-year extension.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has joined the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One in an important test of whether Congress acted without “adequate basis” in extending preclearance requirements.

“Today’s Georgia is not, as Congress suggests, a place where the state or local governments sponsor racial discrimination in the electoral process that must be curbed by the federal government,” argues the brief prepared by Anne Lewis of Atlanta’s Strickland Brockington Lewis law firm. Lewis, one of Atlanta Magazine’s super lawyers for 2009, was widely praised for her work in defending Georgia’s Voter ID law.

Her arguments on Perdue’s behalf are that the 25-year renewal “is not rationally related to the alleged ill Congress seeks to cure: perceived racial discrimination in the electoral process” and was therefore unconstitutional. Congress, ignoring the changed world, relied on data from 1964 in extending Section 5 and “left in place the first coverage formula ever used.” At the end of the 25 years, that data will be almost 70 years old.
Once covered, always covered, she argues. Technically, covered states and districts can gain release. But that’s a ruse, since Georgia would be responsible for any offense committed by any form of government at any level.

“Georgia has nearly 900 governmental jurisdictions: 531 cities, and 183 school districts,” Lewis notes. “In addition, Georgia has more than 570 ’special districts’ of one type or another … Unlike many states, no Georgia jurisdictions are under the control of any other entity.” Each functions independently.

In 2006, a five-person voter-registration board in Randolph County gave a voter-registration card to a school board member in the district where he’d moved. The Department of Justice objected, and required Randolph to keep him in the district where he formerly lived so he could run for re-election there. It was a questionable decision involving a county that “consists of 0.0782 percent of the entire population of Georgia,” and yet the entire state is deemed responsible — and precluded from gaining freedom from Section 5 for another seven years.

To get relief, too, the state would have to review tens of thousands of laws, rules and regulations over 44 years for more than 1,400 jurisdictions that don’t report to the state. “That requirement is, for a covered state like Georgia, a logistical impossibility,” Lewis writes in the brief.

Democracy does require all three branches of government. On rare occasion, the legislative and the executive branch are willing to trample through the Constitution to save their own political skin. That may be punishing nine states. It may be levying confiscatory taxes on the bonuses of the unpopular.

61 comments Add your comment

Chris Broe

March 24th, 2009
8:33 am

The extension of Section 5 oversight came not because anything discriminatory in the covered states warranted it, but because no politician in one of the states not covered dared risk alienating any constituency.

Democracy does require all three branches of government. On rare occasion, the legislative and the executive branch are willing to trample through the Constitution to save their own political skin. That may be punishing nine states. It may be levying confiscatory taxes on the bonuses of the unpopular.


March 24th, 2009
8:52 am

My first comment: I have trouble unpacking the syntax of the lede.


March 24th, 2009
8:53 am

My second comment of great import: Indeed, where IS Ragnar?

Sleepy Eatswell

March 24th, 2009
9:08 am

“Pesky Constitution gets in politics’ way again” Yup, after all, that was the point!

Damned good thing that we now have a president who is both able to read it and has done so often.


March 24th, 2009
9:21 am

As a sometime constitutionalist, and in the absence of jbmlaw, I’ll study this matter and try to formulate a thoughtful response. For now I’ll just say that it’s infuriating of a person who loves our Constitution.


March 24th, 2009
9:23 am

Really, Sleepy? Those of his teachers whose acquaintance I happen to have made, tell me that he never met a book about which he’d rather opine than read.

Redneck Convert

March 24th, 2009
9:28 am

Well, I’m all for overturning these laws that discrimanate against Southren states. We’ll never get our two Congress seats back if we ain’t allowed to draw up the districts so they got more White voters than Those People. This kind of stuff is the reason I switched from Southren Democrat to Republican. Not that the racial stuff had anything to do with it. But it’s States Rights that are getting trampled. It ain’t enough for me to make them pull out a picture ID at the polls.

What I want to know is, what’s wrong with making a voter prove he can read or write before voting or maybe pass a IQ test? And why can’t a state add on a poll tax? Or maybe make a voter prove he owns property in the state if he wants to vote. How come we got to go to Washington every time we want to pass a law to make it a little tougher to vote or scare off a few people? This is America, not some commie country that will let just anyone vote.

No, the libruls got to bring up old news like lynching and keeping Those People seperet in bathrooms and restaurants and such. Not to mention the Klan. Well, this is the 21st century. We got much more advanced ways of handling such things now. We got redistricting and all kinds of things we can use. If the federal guvmint will just let us use them.

That’s my opinion and it’s very true. Have a good day everybody.

Elephant Whip

March 24th, 2009
9:31 am

The Voting Rights Act still protects voters in Georgia. The first time the Voter ID law passed in Georgia, it was held to scrutiny in Federal Court under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. And the Federal Court determined that it was unconstitutional because, as first drafted, it was equivalent to a poll tax and failed to provide sufficient notification of new voter ID requirements. It would have illegally prevented people from voting. The Georgia Legislature was then forced to revise its statute, making a free voter ID for those unable to afford it and implementing a better system for notifying voters of the change in the law and the new requirements for ID. Had not checks like the Voting Rights Act been in place, Georgia would have been able to illegally deprive people of their right to vote.

Sam Smith

March 24th, 2009
9:44 am

The Constitution? Is that thing still around? Is it truly still relevant? I thought Cheney and Bush showed us all how to navigate around it at will, e.g., invasion of the formerly-sovereign Iraq, human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, all those crazy presidential signing statements, domestic eavesdropping, etc. What short-term memories some folks have!


March 24th, 2009
9:52 am

I think Georgia should suceed from the union and cut taxes, invite every company from overseas back to our state and just enjoy life without huge government. People that dont want to work for a living can move to another state that allows for welfare. There will be no welfare here in georgia as plenty of jobs would be here and plenty of tax money collected to pay for a small but efficient government and military. See ya Obama lolololol.


March 24th, 2009
9:55 am

THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO VOTE! READ IT AND THE SUPPORTING RELEVANT DOCUMENTS AND LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE FOUNDING OF OUR COUNTRY! COngress and the courts have overstepped their Constitutional authority repeatedly! It is time to reclaim our country from these radical, liberal, socialist scum!

Churchill's MOM

March 24th, 2009
9:57 am

Are you taking off Monday now?


March 24th, 2009
10:11 am

Elephant Whip

March 24th, 2009
10:47 am


There is no constitutional right to vote unless a state chooses popular vote as its mechanism for deciding elections (or casting its electoral votes for president). If popular vote is the mechanism, then a person’s right to vote in state and federal elections as a citizen of the United States is protected by due process and equal protection applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment.

Are you suggesting that the Georgia government should choose another method of election? Do you want the Georgia Legislature to vote for president instead of you? And how would you like for the Georgia politicians to be elected? Appointment? Inheritance?


March 24th, 2009
10:58 am

It seems that the politicians who preach loudly and piously about the US Constitution are the exact ones who either ignore or act despite the Constitution. Case in point, the great socialist hypocrite, Robert Bird (D) of West Virginia.


March 24th, 2009
11:00 am

Excuse em, that’s Robert BYRD.

The Snark

March 24th, 2009
11:30 am


Is there an archive of your past columns? I want to see if you wrote any columns between 2000 and 2008 complaining about the executive and legislative branches trampling the Constitution.


Take your meds, and lie down before you hurt yourself.


March 24th, 2009
12:26 pm

Speaking of constitutional, Treasury Secretary Geithner asked congress today to give power to the Treasury to take over any private business it feels may be failing, if the treasury determines that business to have impact on the economy. This is the first step to government owning all business. Interestingly, he was asked if the government had been given this power months ago and had exercised it with AIG, would those bonuses have been paid out, and he replied if AIG was in receivership with the government, absolutely not. He makes this statement while millions of dollars of bonuses were paid last week at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, both of whom are in receivership with the government.

Folks, the Obama administration is working toward a socialist society and totalitarian government. 1984 is arriving finally, just 30 years later than expected by George Orwell.


March 24th, 2009
12:34 pm

Hey Jim can you tell us who the morons in the Georgia House that allowed this to happen, and voted against making pickup truck drivers from having to wear seat belts ?

Here is the story in today’s AJC……..

House committee rejects seat belt changes
Associated Press

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A key House panel has dealt a devastating blow to efforts to require adults in pickup trucks to buckle their seat belts.

The House Consumer Affairs subcommittee voted 4-3 against the measure. It was the first time in at least three years a House panel has considered the issue. Supporters immediately moved to reconsider the measure on another day.

Georgia is the only state in the nation that exempts adults in pickups from wearing seat belts. The stance has cost the state millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

The Senate approved the seat belt changes for the last three years. House lawmakers, worried it could negatively affect rural residents, have made sure the changes are killed each year.

HA HA HA……….. someone Please tell me how asking a rural citizen in a Pick up Truck, is negatively effected by putting on a seat belt ?

Sounds really stupid to me……but hey we are almost last in education in Georgia……..must be all that Right Wing Politics that happens in rural Georgia !


March 24th, 2009
12:42 pm

There is a litany of topics the so-called conservatives use to bring attention to their notion of illegal activity on the part of the Federal government.

In this case, they can not produce ONE verified case of prosecuted voter fraud, yet, this problem is so monumental it threatens the foundation of our democracy.

When is the last time you have seen a current topic and the relative debate of such topics as Iraq, the economy, the confessed war crimes of the principals of the previous administration, the financial meltdown, the mortgage crisis, and on and on and on?


March 24th, 2009
12:54 pm

Good afternoon, Jim.

Sorry that I do not have the time to appear on this blog more often, but, alas, someone has to keep the Bush Recession/Obama Depression economy chugging along.

I have often thought that one of the best things that could happen to our elected representatives and senators would be for them to be required to take a 32 hour course on the Constitution of the United States!

Oh…wait…my bad, as the younger folks say today,…they (the representatives and senators) would have to learn how to “read” first! Bad idea.

Mid-South Philosopher

March 24th, 2009
12:55 pm

Somehow my name didn’t come through on the above post. Must be a Georgia state legislator working the board on his day off!


March 24th, 2009
12:56 pm

Peter, good question! I think the answer has something to do with the the S-10 and F-150 replacing the Turnip Wagon in rural areas of our state. If there are only three seatbelts in the front seat of the truck, how do you cram six onion pickers in it and still comply with the law? Many Georgians don’t have the money to spend on safety, and the State House is willing to forego those evil federal funds to keep it that way.

Redneck Convert

March 24th, 2009
1:06 pm

Well, I like to fell off of my seat when I heard the GA House voted down this law that would make pickup truck drivers buckle up. After all the beatings us rednecks took at the polls it’s about time something good happened.

It ain’t nobody’s business if I don’t buckle up. All that could happen if I got into a axident is I would go thru the windshield and they would have to sew me back together to have a proper funeral. A little thread and some makeup and I would look good as new. We have a Constitutional Right to get kilt if we want to.

Have a good day everybody.

John Adams

March 24th, 2009
1:08 pm

Well you know, libtards are destroying the Constitution and taking away our rights one by one, and the irony is that they claimed that BUSH was doing just that! (Which he of course was not). Now The Teleprompter Administration wants to use the US Treasury for taking over corporations OTHER than banks. Are we reading the writing on the wall yet folks? Where the hell does it state that the Treasury can take over PRIVATE COMPANIES??? Deafening silence from the stupid mindless left.

You want more mindlessness from the feel good fascist left? How about the EPA standards for when one of those Algore-approved fluorescent light bulb breaks? Get a load of this government BS:

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

* Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
* Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
* Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

* Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
* Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
* Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
* Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

* Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
* Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
* If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
* Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

* If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
* You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
* If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

* Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
* Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
* Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

* The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
* Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Idiots! They spent 30 years telling us how bad mercury was, and now they are putting in back in new “green” light bulbs. No, you cannot make up the insanity of liberalism like this. Do you want to follow these mindless, TRULY MINDLESS hysterics on the left off the cliff? Keep voting for them then. Stupid is as stupid does.

John Adams

March 24th, 2009
1:14 pm

And then we have the no fireplaces allowed in new homes ordinance being mulled in California. One by one folks, one by one.

Sidenote: The Teleprompter In Chief still thinks Chirac is PM of France. Don’t look for the DNC liberal media to mention it.

“March 22, 2009 Foreign Policy Gaffe Machine Strikes Again; Obama Sends Note to Chirac Pledging Friendship, Working Relationship”

HAHAHAHA!!!! Great job America!

John Adams

March 24th, 2009
1:18 pm

$500 says most of the short bus Obama voters didn’t even know fluorescent light bulbs had LEAD in them. Whatever fees good or sounds good must be good, right libtards?


March 24th, 2009
1:51 pm

Disappearing posts AGAIN, Jim?

The VRA…..a play of rights to Hitchock’s “The Skin Game”.

The Hillcrests [sic] vs The Hornblowers.

My review of today’s Skin Game is to say it’s stodgy politics…….plain and simple.


March 24th, 2009
3:16 pm

I’me with Glenn: Where is Ragnar? I miss his learned explanations.

Wooten is so good with his writing, so true to facts and politics, I take what he says quite seriously. Am I getting the correct interpretation here?

Politicians, in a long outdated effort to offset what they perceive as discrimination, are trying to continue something legal against Southern states and AK & AZ. The fact that there is little discrimination in these states escapes these over zealous vigilantes. They continue an outdated vengence where there is no “cause” for such tactics. But… such actions cause great state expense and time without necessity.

Thus Jim explains that the Federal Executive and Legislative branches of our government (where these “rules” originate) are trampling the Constitution for political reasons(alienating voters), not for valid reasons.

I think I got that right. Less Big government control brings better states rights.

PS..I think RedNeck Convert is from Chicago. Most Southerners would adopt a dog from the pound before they’d befriend a mutt like RedNeck.

Finally Hope

March 24th, 2009
4:38 pm

Atlanta, GA: John Monds will be announcing his intention to seek the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s nomination for Governor with a press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta with family, close friends and supporters by his side Wednesday, March 25th at 4:00pm.

During his campaign for Public Service Commission (District 1) in 2008, Monds became the first Libertarian to break one million votes in the United States.

Monds and the Libertarian Party believe Georgians are ready for something new and different. “It’s difficult to tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats; both want to raise your taxes, waste your money and increase the size and scope of state government,” said Monds.

“We must be competitive in the 21st Century. We must have meaningful tax reform that allows businesses and individuals to thrive, a transportation system that eases congestion without raising taxes, an education system that gives more choices and returns control to the local level, and we need to stop wasting the taxpayers’ money with mandated long term incarceration of individuals for non-violent victimless infractions of the law”

John Monds, 43, is a graduate of Morehouse College with a degree in Banking and Finance, President of the Grady County NAACP and currently serves on the Grady County Planning Commission.

He resides in Cairo with his wife, Dr. Kathaleena Edward Monds, and four children, Akintunde, Cazembe, Halima and Malik.


March 24th, 2009
4:47 pm

Hey, Jim! Open for business I see.

Did jay tell you your site was in lockdown?

I told him to, or maybe I asked…….can’t remember which.


March 24th, 2009
5:08 pm

How can Monds run for governor of Georgia if he resides in Cairo, Egypt?


Why would anyone stick their kids with names like Akintunde, Cazembe, Halima and Malik? There have been studies done that show names such as those hold people back in the professional world. He should have stuck with the tried and true John and Kathleena.


March 24th, 2009
5:34 pm

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”


March 24th, 2009
5:54 pm

hmm @@,

There’s a Cairo, Georgia. It’s west of Valdosta and north of Talahassee. Not well known in your home state of California. Not too well known in Georgia either.

I suspect the children’s names are from African ancestry. They will probably end up with Akie, Caz, Hal and Mal. Everything is condensed these days.


March 24th, 2009
6:03 pm


You’re probably right. I can go with everything but Akie if pronounced Aach-ee. That would be “retch”ed.

Ah-kee would be O.K.

My daughter’s name is unique in that it’s one usually given to males. When I was contemplating what to name her, I looked at last names as firsts. Her name is a very common last name as is her middle name. Fits her to a “t”, tea or tee?


March 24th, 2009
6:08 pm


The correct pronunciation of Cairo, Ga. is kay-ro

Chris Broe

March 24th, 2009
6:27 pm

The greek acronym for Christ is ICXC, or 9990 in roman numerals as they would appear if you just wrote it out as it stands. C is 100. I is one. So IC is one subtracted from 100 or 99. Then XC is ten subtracted from 100 or 90.

9990 is how they appear as an acronym translated into roman numerals.

Is that the coolest thing ever?


March 24th, 2009
6:42 pm

Twytter! Twytter! burning bright,
Bring to blogs thine I.Q. lite.
Limits are set at twenty-five,
Debate reduced to merely jive.

“Use few words”, a fop advised,
“Thoughts are better realized.”
Be very brief, don’t aspire,
But shallow thuoghts will soon expire.

A score of words, just a start,
Not even at the matters heart.
Condensing down to just a tweet,
Retards ideas, to incomplete.

Our fop now posts upon this site,
More than Twytter he doth write.
This dandy’s point to all of you,
Do as I say not as I do.

Twytter! Twytter! burning bright,
Bring to blogs thine I.Q. lite.
Limits are set at twenty-five,
Debate reduced to merely jive.


March 24th, 2009
6:53 pm


I’m curious, why do you find that the coolest thing ever? Is it because it’s 6660 when turned on its head? Are you into religious numerology?

666 represents imperfect man. No man in particular but all men in particular. At least that’s the way I see it.


March 24th, 2009
6:56 pm


You’re Kamchak too?

So tell me, what’s wrong with being just plain ol’ Chris Broe?


March 24th, 2009
7:05 pm


I’m Kamchak. Chris Broe is the one that blogs as a Royal Representative in a Crown Colony.


March 24th, 2009
7:28 pm

I believe that LCXC is 1190,with the l being 1000,The C being 100 and XC being 90.

Bitter EX democrat

March 24th, 2009
7:42 pm

STRIVE to be SMARTER than those who seek to keep you OPPRESSED at every turn…

Democrackkk: the ORIGINAL ‘party’ of SLAVERY as they continue to ENSLAVE us DAILY in Amerikkka!


March 24th, 2009
8:17 pm

Which begs the question anew, What’s wrong with Chris Broe?

Chris Matthews' Tingling Leg

March 24th, 2009
8:27 pm

Anyone know what POTUS Prompter is talking about in some of his answers tonight? I still can’t believe this nation elected this guy.

Someone please take Helen Thomas’ pulse. Geeze.


March 24th, 2009
8:56 pm

Chris Matthew’s Tingling Leg is here…

So begins the vagina monologues

Country Boy

March 25th, 2009
12:33 am

Jesse and the brothers and sisters have blackmailed congress.


March 25th, 2009
1:18 am





March 25th, 2009
7:39 am

Yes, fellow Americans its true. The democrats STILL practice slavery, although it has changed. The democrats buy votes in the form of “Those EVIL Republicans are gonna take away your welfare, make you get a JOB, and pay taxes like everyone else!”, play “master” by penalizing those that ARE attempting to find work, and keep the “entitlement challenged” on modern day plantations called “public housing”.

When are liberals going to LEARN, that the only person that keeps a person down…is THEMSELVES. What ever happened to the “WORK ETHIC” in this country, when a person looked forward to getting up in the morning and giving their employer 100% for an honest day’s pay?

I’m reminded of the adage, “The easiest way to get back on your feet is to get off your butt!” Too bad many feel its the government’s responsibility to take care of them, rather than taking the responsibility for their own actions or lack of actions.

This great country is STILL the land of opportunity, witness those that STILL risk their lives to attempt to come here, legally or illegally. But you have to WORK for that opportunity and quit relying upon the government to provide it for you, at the cost of those who are being PRODUCTIVE citizens.

Northern Sympathizer

March 25th, 2009
8:51 am

The underlying premise of Jim’s article is that the Voting Rights Protections are no longer needed in the South since racial discrimination is a thing of the past. Lets examine that concept.

Obama lost the State of Alabama by 62% of the vote-in a “change” election. The Southeastern Conference also has no black head football coaches. Is Jim suggesting that race is not a factor in these cases?

The national unemployment rate is at 8%, the National Debt has doubled in the past 8 years, and the only issue concerning Jim is the fact that the law was renewed affording voting protections to groups that have been without question discriminated against in the past. Singling out this extension issue, and it is an obscure issue in a practical sense, only reinforces the fact that race IS still an issue in the nation.