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Constitution Mandates Voter Obstruction Penalties


For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 16, 2004


U.S. Constitution Mandates Penalties for Voter Obstruction

According to the 14th Amendment (Section 2), voting irregularities may require a reduction in the number of allotted Electoral College votes for Ohio or other states.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders warned that Ohio and other states where a significant amount of voter obstruction has taken place face penalties mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

Under the leadership of presidential candidate David Cobb, Greens have launched vote recount efforts in Ohio and New Mexico in response to the numerous complaints of voting irregularities in the 2004 election

According to the 14th Amendment (Section 2) of the U.S. Constitution, "...[W]hen the right to vote... is denied... or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens... in such State."

"If legitimate voters have been disenfranchised in any state, the Constitution requires that the state's representation be reduced," said Asa Gordon, Executive Director of the Douglass Institute of Government, chair of the D.C. Statehood Green Party's Electoral College Task Force, and member of the party's national Black Caucus. "If it can be shown that a class of legitimate voters were obstructed from voting or having their votes counted in Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, or any other state, then that state may lose one or more of its allotted Electoral College votes."

Thousands of African American voters in Ohio reported that their voting rights were challenged at the polls, and that they faced prohibitively long lines for too few voting machines at the polls while majority white and Republican precincts enjoyed a sufficient supply of machines. Thousands of voters in majority Democratic precincts also complained of long lines for too few machines and reported that machines rejected or altered their votes.

If African Americans, Democrats, third party voters, or any other group was targeted as a class for disenfranchisement in Ohio or any other state, then that state may face class action penalties mandating a reduction of Electoral College votes proportional to the class of voters so disenfranchised.

Based on this application of Section 2's mal-apportionment penalty, Ohio could lose several of its 18 U.S. Representatives and 20 Electoral College votes, based on the percentage of African Americans in Ohio (12.1%, 2000 U.S. Census) or Ohioans who call themselves Democrat (Ohio election law currently does not provide for voters to register in parties; the national percentage of registered Democrats is about 45%, according to Ballot Access News statistics for 2000).

While no precedent exists for Congress using Section 2 to penalize a state and reduce its number of U.S. Representatives (and Electors, the number of which is in part based on the number of Representatives), the Supreme Court has affirmed the applicability of Section 2. See Justice William Rehnquist's opinion, Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974)

In October, 2004, the Green Party of the United States endorsed a statement calling for enforcement of the 14th Amendment's guarantee that voters enjoy equal protection and treatment in their representation by the Electoral College.

In the statement, Greens demand "that apportionment of Electoral College votes reflect the actual votes within states." The statement addresses the failure to enforce Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the lack of democracy in the state-based winner-take-all apportionment of Electoral College votes.

"The struggle to ensure fair elections and accurate vote counts is emerging as a major civil rights issue of the 21st century," said Diane White, Corresponding Secretary of the Green Party's Black Caucus and Pennsylvania delegate to the national party.

"It took nearly a century to enforce Section 1, the equal protection provision of the 14th Amendment. Let's not let another century pass to enforce Section 2, the right to vote provision," added Asa Gordon.

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The Green Party of the United States
1700 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 404
Washington, DC 20009.
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193

"Greens: Enforce 14th Amendment's 'Right to Vote' Provision"
Press release, October 18, 2004

"Mal-Apportionment Penalty Civil Actions"
Douglass Institute of Government

2004 Cobb/LaMarche Campaign: news on the Ohio recount

~ END ~

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