The Closet Moderate: Does something feel... wrong?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Does something feel... wrong?

The election is over, and perhaps you feel something is missing. Something isn't quite sitting right with you and you can't figure out what it is. No, it's not that your party won (or lost), it's not that we aren't having recounts (et tu, Minnesota?). No, it's that Florida hasn't totally screwed the pooch.

Well, well, well, do I have a story for you.

So, it turns out, there exists a bunch of "Alien Land Laws" instituted in the 1910s and 20s (starting with CA - we are real trend setters out here), that kept Asian immigrants from owning land. Seems that Americans feared the "farming prowess" of the Asians. Regardless, all of these laws are now illegal under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the US constitution (Sei Fujii v. California, 1952). But, since some of them were written into the constitutions of these states, one remains on the books.

Enter our favorite, gator-eatin', gramma-lovin', mojito-drinkin', chad-hangin', bass-ackwards state, Florida.

It is indeed the lovely state of Florida has the last one of these laws in its constitutions, and put a ballot measure on this year to remove it, following New Mexico, Wyoming and Kansas a few years back:

"Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship."

Well, since no one really had a dog in this fight no one spent any money supporting the measure, although no one was ever really against it. There were some people in the legislature who (erroneously) thought that the law could be used to fight terrorism, but they didn't spend much effort to push it either. Many people who knew about it were worried that they might not get the 60% needed to amend the constitution.

It lost, 52%-48%. Never trust your citizens with your constitution. Particularly if all your citizens are Floridians.


Silent Cal said...

Never trust citizens with your Constitution? If the citizenry don't create the constitutions, how can you even claim consent of the governed?

Dave said...

That's why you should have representatives making the changes in the law. At least if you have an elected legislature making the actual changes then you have a buffer layer of idiots in suits between the other idiots and the laws.

At least that's the idea, I guess.

I don't know. I've never met a form of government that I actually liked.

Closet Canuck said...

I would like to point out that a few years ago, there was a proposition on the CA ballot that had something to do with addressing the state's crumbling transportation infrastructure.

The only problem? It was on the ballot by mistake, a law made obsolete by a proposition passed a few years prior. The official voter handbook contained no argument in favor, and no rebuttal to the argument against. Every senior official you could think of went on record to effectively say: "Vote No. It's on there by accident. Sorry about that."

The result? It was indeed defeated, but only by about 60-40. My question is: if a proposition is on the ballot by mistake, and everyone says so, and 40% of voters STILL vote in favor, what chance do we have??

Propositions and measures are complex legal affairs with sometimes profound consequences. There's absolutely no way an electorate has the capacity to make a fully informed decision on every single one of them. It boils down to cheap signs and advertising, and sometimes ill-informed snap decisions made at the voting booth.

I'm all for checks and balances, the will of the people, and all that. But does it go too far, hampering possibly useful legislation? What's the point of electing legislators if they can't properly legislate?

Silent Cal said...

I have long decried the initiative process in the western states as a foolish relic of the Progressive era. But I still recoil at the idea that the people shouldn't have a say in their constitutions. Perhaps a better process would be to call a convention every few years, elected by a different process than the legislature, and have them draft and propose amendments for the populace to ratify.