Guest Commentary / Jan. 7, 2021

State Legislators Hold the Key to Refreshing America's 'Tree of Liberty'

Ostensibly without the blood of patriots and tyrants.

By Paul Gardiner

It is a widely acknowledged fact that republics such as America’s constitutional republic cannot long survive without open and honest elections. Absent such elections and periodic changes in leadership, history shows that continual one-party/one-person rule usually leads to totalitarian control and abuse of a population (see Venezuela and Cuba for examples).

In a letter written in 1787, Thomas Jefferson compared liberty to a tree that must be refreshed from time to time. His words are as follows: “And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance — the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” As described herein, America’s elected state legislators hold the key to refreshing America’s tree of liberty, ostensibly without the blood of patriots and tyrants.

The recent experience with Dominion Voting Systems machines and software during the November 2020 national election coupled with numerous reported instances of fraudulent voting activities and other voting irregularities undoubtedly cause or will cause many millions of Americans to readily support the mandating of uniform, nationwide voting rules and procedures. The need for these rules and procedures is urgent, and as explained below, state legislators perhaps have the only viable option to make them a reality.

State legislators can largely ensure that open and honest national elections (for federal government officials) could take place in all 50 states. The legislators could accomplish this prior to the 2024 national elections by implementing a two-pronged strategy: 1) mandate uniform, nationwide voting rules and procedures via a constitutional amendment that the legislators themselves propose and ratify; and 2) concurrently arrange for a thorough review and technical/engineering analysis to be conducted of voting machines and associated software; determine which products are the most secure and reliable; and procure and test the needed equipment/software.

In accomplishing the above actions, state legislators would be wise not to rely in any great measure on the assistance or involvement of the federal government. Predictions are that the new Congress may be one of the most contentious in history and, as such, there may not be much of a cooperative willingness any time soon to address the establishment of uniform, nationwide voting rules and procedures.

Regarding requirements and limitations that might be included in an amendment governing voting rules and procedures in national elections, the following items could be included:

1) In order to be counted as a legal ballot, all ballots must be cast and received by close of business on Election Day.

2) Absentee ballots, requested by registered voters, are the only mail-in ballots allowed.

3) With the exception of absentee ballots, all voting must be accomplished in person at prescribed polling stations.

4) A government-issued photo identification card is required in order to vote.

5) Early in-person voting is allowed at prescribed polling stations up to 14 days prior to election day.

A discussion of why state legislators have the only viable option to mandate uniform, nationwide voting rules and procedures is here.

Regarding the conduct of a thorough review and analysis of voting machines and software, state legislators and their experts first need to agree on technical and engineering requirements and standards to secure honest, uniform nationwide voting. These requirements and standards need to be determined as soon as possible.

Potential models of where and how these technical requirements could be determined are the Colorado River Compact (CRC) of 1922 and the ongoing Uniform Law Commission (ULC). The CRC allowed technical experts and lawmakers from several states to gather and decide apportionment of the Colorado River. The ULC allows representatives from the different states to regularly meet to determine which areas of law should be uniform among the states.

In conclusion, America’s tree of liberty needs to be refreshed through the actions of state legislators as described herein. The agenda and timeframe for the proposed two-pronged strategy is very ambitious (all actions completed before the 2024 national elections), but with strong leadership, prioritized commitment, and adequate funding, the nation’s state legislators may very well succeed in their efforts. The importance of their mission cannot be overemphasized.

As a result of their efforts, legislators will be instrumental in assuring that the American people continue to enjoy the liberty that the late Walter Williams once defined as “people being able to engage in peaceable voluntary exchange without interference by others — to not be subject to arbitrary abuse and control by others.” They also will help to assure that the American people continue to enjoy the kind of freedom that the late George Orwell defined as “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

The critical question is: Who will step forward in the ranks of the nation’s state legislators to lead this effort and who will work with and support the legislators in this grand endeavor?

Paul S. Gardiner is a retired Army officer, Vietnam veteran, and avid lover of America. He previously served as Georgia Coalitions Director and National Veterans Coalitions Director for the Convention of States Project. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College.

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