I’ve always tried to be a good citizen. That is, I pay my taxes, I yield right of way, I close cover before striking, and I return my tray-table to its upright and locked position. I never tear the labels off of pillows, and sometimes I even push my supermarket cart over to that corral in the parking lot.
Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered the other day that I really may not be such a good citizen after all, at least as defined by the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.
I happened to take a glance at that document — well, you don’t actually glance at such a big and dry piece of prose; what I was actually doing was poring over it, because, as one would expect, it does contain at least its share of whereases, heretofores, thereuntos and suchlike pronominal adverbs (OK, I had to look that up) — but that wasn’t the main problem.
The main problem was found in ARTICLE SIXTH, OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS, SEC. 1. There it was, in black and white:
Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of twenty-one years, who has resided in the town in which he offers himself to be admitted to the privileges of an elector at least six months next preceding the time he so offers himself, who is able to read in the English language any article of the constitution or any section of the statutes of the state, and who sustains a good moral character, shall, on his taking such oath as may be prescribed by law, be an elector.
Naturally, with an election coming up, I’d like to be sure that I’m a fully qualified elector, and I certainly meet almost all of those conditions.
But how the hell will I be able to prove that I sustain “a good moral character”?
And who’s going to determine that?
Is there a sin-detector test?
Will the state police go door to door interviewing my neighbors, as I hear the FBI does when you apply for a security clearance?
Fortunately, I kept reading, and soon found a liberating asterisk.
It seems that this section has been amended, more than once, to ensure that no one will be disenfranchised “because of religion, race, color, ancestry or national origin,” and that somewhere along the line the bit about “good moral character” was deleted.
Good. Now I don’t have to worry that they’ll discover that many years ago I pleaded guilty to “camping in an undesignated area” in Big Sur, California, or that I once was awarded a speeding ticket while driving my old Volkswagen bus on the Maine Turnpike.
But then I came across ARTICLE NINTH, SEC. 4, which has to do with treason and stuff, but it assures us that, at least here in the Constitution State, “No conviction of treason, or attainder, shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture.”
“Corruption of blood”! It turns out that this macabre, almost Old Testament turn of phrase, according to some legalese website, means that the “descendants of an attainted person could not inherit either from the attainted person (whose property had been forfeited by the attainder) or from their other relatives through him.”
What a relief.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.
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