Wednesday, January 26, 2005

No Paupers, Idiots or Lunatics? Who's Left?

A visit to the website of Texas District and County Attorneys Association finds them wistfully recalling days gone by when Texas more aggressively restricted voting rights. The Law Quiz posted there poses the question, "What four groups does the Texas Constitution keep from voting?" The answer:

Article VI Section 1 of the Texas Constitution:

1) Persons under 21 years of age.
2) Idiots & Lunatics.
3) All paupers supported by any county.
4) All persons convicted of any felony.

Of course, the voting age today is 18. Felons in Texas can vote once they're off paper (off probation or parole), or else one in 11 adults would be disenfranchised. I'm pretty sure the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment took care of that paupers stuff, or else poor and elderly Medicaid or TANF recipients couldn't vote. And of course, banning "Idiots and Lunatics" would pretty much whittle the rest of the electorate down to roughly a half dozen or so. That Texas Constitution is a really meaningful document, huh? Still, Texas prosecutors can dream, can't they?

Perhaps it's irony day over at the Texas District Attorneys Association, because their website also includes one of my favorite quotations:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
--Anatole France
In prosecutors' news of interest is an item about marijuana possession charges brought against a member of the Grammy-nominated band Los Lonely Boys in San Angelo. The media there is airing allegations of date rape, but no such charges have been filed, and investigators are awaiting the analysis of evidence sent to one of those highly reliable forensic labs.

Another prosecutors' news item: In Galveston, the county built a new jail, but instead of closing the old one will likely lease it out to a private prison company, which has promised to house a class of prisoners who will have "fewer visitors." I'll bet these are out of state felons, so the "fewer visitors" notion is because they'll be housed so far away from their families, no one can come see them. But to the private prison companies and the county, that's actually a selling point.

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