At yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing, one of the main arguments against suspending the Predator Senator, Norm McAllister, was that suspension would unfairly deprive his constituents of full representation.
Which is a good argument if you ignore, oh, y’know, morality and stuff. It’s an argument that may very well result in a court ruling in McAllister’s favor. A constituent who doesn’t mind being represented by a self-admitted sexual predator can say, “Look, by population Franklin County deserves two Senators, and until McAllister’s suspension is lifted we only have one.”
There are, on the other hand, the interests of constituents who don’t want to be represented by a felon-in-waiting. They have no recourse whatsoever until the next election, because Vermont is one of 14 states with no provision for recalling elected officials.
No matter what those officials might do.
Let’s say, purely hypothetically, choosing a name out of thin air, Dick Mazza runs into the Senate chamber wielding a pickaxe and starts hackin’ and slashin’. After he’s been subdued and taken away in handcuffs and the blood is washed off the walls, furnishings, and light fixtures, the Senate meets to consider what to do.
And decides it can’t do anything until the criminal case is resolved. Congratulations, good people of the Grand Isle district! Like it or not, you shall be represented by an *alleged* axe murderer until the next election! Provisions shall be made for Senator Mazza to participate in committee meetings, floor debates and Senate votes by video feed from his jail cell.
Yes, outlandish, I know. But what are the alternatives under the present system?
Well, I bet Our Distinguished Solons would find a pretext for removing Mazza from his position. Just like they could for McAllister if they were so inclined.
But enough speculation for one post. My point is, if we are truly concerned about full and equal representation for constituents, even if their elected official is accused of heinous crimes, then we need to give voters the power to do something about the situation.
Yes, the voters of Franklin County deserve equal representation. But they also deserve representation that doesn’t bring disgrace upon them. And all constituents deserve to be represented by people they can trust, not people accused of multiple felonies.
The Vermont Legislature has the sole authority to amend the state Constitution, and it’s a really long, arduous, and cumbersome process. Clearly dating from the bad old days when Our Founding Fathers didn’t view democracy the same way we do today. (Just ask any woman alive at the time.)
So let’s try to make something positive out of the McAllister scandal. Let’s amend the Constitution to create a recall process, and give the voters the power to decide whether the Norm McAllisters of the world deserve to continue in office. Our Senators have been so solicitous of the people’s right to full representation; surely they’d all be in favor of creating a recall mechanism.