Pro Logica

February 17, 2012

Presidential Electability–A New Development

Filed under: Interpretation, U. S. Constitution — Tags: , — Ron Toczek @ 6:04 pm

After I’ve posted my view on presidential eligibility, two judges have made the national news.  One, a Georgia judge in a state case, has subpoenaed  the president asking him to prove his eligibility in order to be placed on the Georgia ballot in the upcoming November elections.  Two, another judge has stated his opinion that a native-born citizen is a natural born citizen and that Mr. Obama is a native-born citizen.  I did not pay attention to all the details in this latter situation so I am not sure whether there was a judicial ruling in a case but it seems to me that is was a Georgia judge, not a Federal one, who made the claim.

For those who have read my earlier post, you may probably guess what I am about to say.   To the judge issuing the subpoena Mr. Obama should reply,  “In 2008, I have met all the eligibility requirements for POTUS, and unless you have evidence to the contrary, I still meet the same qualifications and you cannot probe for evidence using me as a witness.  If you do have a credible witness who can testify that I am not a natural born citizen (of course you will have to supply a definition for such) your complaint is first with the sovereign state of Hawaii, claiming that the state was erroneous in issuing a statement saying that I am a natural born citizen.  Should the state retract their original statement, I can still contest that retraction but until the state of Hawaii does, you have no authority to issue a subpoena to me for the purpose of establishing my qualifications for POTUS.”  On the other hand, by not appearing, he certainly implied the above though I suspect that the judge would not see it that way.

Clearly, the other judge’s statement lies in the realm of pure opinion unless it occurs as a part of an official ruling.  An official ruling by a State judge would still be an opinion as far as the other States are concerned.  If a ruling by a Federal judge and no Congressional law is passed to the contrary and other states accept the definition as valid, an official opinion can then be accepted as a de facto law.  Judges like to assume their de facto laws are established laws (note Chief Justice Roberts statement on Roe v Wade), but standard parliamentary procedure dictates otherwise.

The case which prompted the Georgia judge to subpoena the POTUS brings up a new wrinkle in the process of electing a POTUS which has absolutely nothing to do with eligibility but a lot to do with electing a POTUS.  The primary concern of this Georgia case is to determine whether Mr. Obama should be allowed to have his name on the Georgia ballot as a candidate for POTUS, eligibility is just one of the considerations.

Some years back there was a national discussion about limiting Congressional delegates to two terms. At the time I was in favor of it chiefly because the Constitution, by not saying anything against it, just plain permitted it.  Those opposed used precisely the same argument and, consequently, nothing was done.  This latter stance was and is very hypocritical since laws are generally construed to be specific in a positive sense and hardly ever in a negative sense. There are laws which lay out their purpose and this can lead to unspecified actions being argued as against the purpose of the law, but the Constitution has no such purpose which a term limit restriction can be found to be against.  Also, the Constitution affirms the sovereignty of the States which implies that the States can very well apply further restrictions to their elected delegates.  Applying these principles to the electoral process for the POTUS, it is very clear that each State has complete control over its electoral representatives; i.e., they can require their electoral representatives to vote for a particular candidate, not vote for a particular candidate or something in between.  Translating this view into today’s regular election process wherein the candidates for POTUS are listed on ballots and then the state assemblies  appoint the electors, the state assemblies may still exercise their control over their electors but the state has an additional method of keeping a candidate for POTUS off the ballot by just not allowing it in the first place for whatever reason.

In other words, Georgia, as well as any sovereign State of the U.S., can, Constitutionally,  deny any presidential candidate a spot on their ballot, providing they have one, direct their electors on who to vote for or even give no direction to their electors.  Of course there are other, non-Constitutional considerations that would determine what a State actually does.

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