Politics & Policy

Skirting The Law

The New Jersey Democrats will do anything to win.

By letting the New Jersey supreme court bless the recent hijinks on its November ballot, the U.S. Supreme Court has transmitted a quiet but profound message: American laws are now mere suggestions. If state and federal justices cheer or snooze while Garden State Democrats shred the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and state laws to cling to a U.S. Senate seat, why must regular Americans obey the law?

Hypo-ethical Senator Robert Torricelli (D., N.J.) shelved his reelection bid on September 30. Neither dead nor comatose, he was simply 13 points behind Douglas Forrester, his Republican challenger. Two days later, state Democrats tapped former senator Frank Lautenberg to oppose the GOP nominee. Forrester must have felt like a fledgling boxer who knocked out Mike Tyson, only to see Evander Holyfield suddenly leap into the ring, swinging. So, Forrester sued to block Torricelli’s exit. The state supreme court refused to do so, saying “the election statutes should be liberally construed” to permit this scenario. Republicans appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which declined to hear the case. As Sir Thomas More once observed, “Silence gives consent.”

Here are the legal rules that now lie in tatters after Democrats and their black-robed enablers mugged Forrester in broad daylight:

‐Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

The Founding Fathers agreed that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof…” So what? State judges now may ignore state legislators and write whatever election laws they prefer.

‐The Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal-protection clause.

Some counties already mailed out ballots bearing Torricelli’s name, while others barely have started shipping ballots listing Lautenberg. Some voters will get old ballots, others will get both, and some absentee voters overseas may see neither. This is not equal protection. As Forrester 2002 counsel Bill Baroni observes, the war on terror could exacerbate this problem. “We have more military people fighting overseas, and further away than they have been before, and many in locations that are far more secret than before.” Imagine transporting ballots into and out of Tora Bora, Afghanistan on a timely basis.

‐This fix also tramples federal statutes. The Uniformed and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voter Act of 1986, an amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, requires states to help civilians and GIs vote from abroad. The law insists that states mail out absentee ballots at least 40 days before each federal election. The Torricelli-Lautenberg ballot ballet pushed this to 29 days before voting.

‐Democrats and judges torched the Garden State’s legal code, too. New Jersey law says any candidate who withdraws from a race must do so at least 51 days before an election. Any substitute candidate must be named by the relevant political party no later than 48 days before voting begins. Torricelli abandoned the race 36 days before the election, and Lautenberg was selected 34 days prior to November 5.

What part of 51 and 48 confuses these people?

In an effort to boot Torricelli and boost Lautenberg, Democrats smashed laws like plates at a Greek wedding. And two supreme courts let them.

If public servants may behave this way, why must the people who pay their bills act any better?

Americans may be forgiven if they now consider laws solely as recommendations. They already know that it is permissible to commit perjury regarding sex. While bribing politicians can cost jail time (just ask Torricelli donor David Chang), accepting campaign and library donations in exchange for introductions to government officials or presidential pardons is no big deal. As the saying goes,

“Everybody does it.”

A new legal principle now governs this country: “Deadline, schmedline.” Americans may not feel compelled to submit their 1040s by April 15. Why not April 25? Or May 7? If the IRS complains, just tell them your senator ate your tax return.

San Francisco financier Ted Sheridan proposes this money-saving tip: “Why not tell the IRS that you would like to substitute a homeless person’s tax return for your own?” Why not, indeed, Ted? In a land where the Constitution, federal statutes and state law carry as much weight as friendly advice, anything goes.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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