Ethnic Quotas in Elections: Thank the Bush Administration

Some Democrats are hinting at the word impeachment when they talk about George W. Bush and his "lying us into war" scandal. Heck, I’d support impeachment in a minute, even though I voted for the guy and despise most Democrats. But no one, not even Sidney Blumenthal or Florida Sen. Bob Graham, really believes the president will be subjected to this fate by a GOP Congress.

But I have come up with a better way to void the Bush election. It’s something I learned from the Bush Justice Department, which is acting with the same regard to the Constitution and the rule of law as the Clinton Justice Department under Janet Reno.

We can simply use the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to void the election. It’s simple really. No woman or black person or Jewish person or Muslim or You Name It has been elected the federal government’s chief executive officer — ever. That’s clearly a sign of discrimination. So Justice Department lawyers can declare a violation and impose a new system for replacing the president.

Before you toss this out as a silly idea, consider a news story from Monday’s Los Angeles Times. In Vista, Calif., a northern San Diego County town with a 40 percent Latino population, no Latino surnamed person has ever been elected to the City Council — ever. There are no allegations of vote-fixing, or other forms of election fraud, or even of intimidation against Latino voters. One local Hispanic activist told the Times he has never heard a complaint. "I don’t think there’s a problem here."

As local officials pointed out in the news story, there is an obvious explanation for the disparity: Few Latinos are registered to vote. And, unstated but obvious, is that a good bit of the city’s Latino population probably is in the United States illegally, and — short of being given a little walking around money and some phony registration cards — most illegals aren’t interested in voting in city council races.

But that’s not good enough for the Justice Department. A former tow-truck manager with a last name, Vega, told the Times that he ran for city council and finished fourth out of six candidates. He doesn’t know why he didn’t win. That sort of evidence of unfairness apparently is good enough for the feds.

"Justice Department investigators want to determine whether a pattern emerges in Vista," according to the Times. "They plan to check whether members of minorities and whites vote differently; whether whites in Vista vote as a block against minority candidates; and whether whites are able to beat minority candidates, even when minority voters are unified at the polls, said Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez."

Amazing. The Justice Department is investigating whether people in Vista vote properly. Note what they say. It’s apparently illegal if white people vote in blocks for candidates, but a good thing when minority voters are "unified at the polls." Even more ridiculous: Martinez told the newspaper the department only needs to find disparities in voting before coming down like a sledgehammer against the city. "Intent and cause are irrelevant, he said."

It seems likely the feds are going to come into Vista and demand the city embrace a district council system, with at least one of the districts gerrymandered to assure a Latino surnamed council member. Currently, the city elects its officials in at-large seats, meaning each council member is elected from voters in the entire city.

One can argue the value of at-large seats versus districts. I have endorsed a local city initiative that would create districts, as a means to create neighborhood control. But the city’s residents would decide to embrace the system, not the feds, and the districts are based on the natural neighborhood breakdowns, not on ethnic enclaves.

The situation in Vista is tyranny, pure and simple. And it undermines the validity of the democratic process. I know. Elections are rarely worth defending, and certainly are not the holy things modern-day majoritarians say they are. Still, there is something unusually appalling about using the federal government to assure that a "proper" number of minorities is elected to the city council. It’s not too much of a leap to think that elections might be invalidated based on improper ethnic balances and such things.

Which leads me back to President Bush. Because he won’t stop his own Justice Department from pursuing tyranny, Americans ought to use the same apparatus to remove him from office.

It won’t happen, but it’s fun thinking about the possibility.

Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register.

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