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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

There have been a number of notable stories in the media lately, which force us to tell the truth about the inequities in the application of the law. Let’s take the most glaring example, first.

Section 3, of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

In layman’s terms, if you try to overthrow or subvert the U.S. government, you don’t get to hold public office. And for those of us willing to call it like it is, the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection. Supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the building and those entrusted with its care. There have been more than 900 rioters arrested and charged with a variety of crimes. However, the many incumbent federal and state elected officials that may have rebelled, given aid or provided comfort to the January 6th insurrectionists, likely will never be charged or face a day in jail.

But then there’s Crystal Mason. She was given a five-year prison sentence for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election, while she was on supervised release for a federal conviction. She said she was unaware that she couldn’t vote. Insurrection by elected officials, who intentionally convene a slate of fake electors, as a part of an orchestrated coup vs. a woman who didn’t know she could vote?

And then there’s the case of Pamela Moses, who was sentenced in January, of this year, to 6 years in prison. Moses attempted to register to vote in 2019. While she knew she had a felony conviction, she reached out to Tennessee election officials to determine if she was eligible to run for office. Redirected to her probation officer, she was told that she was done with felony probation and her voting rights were restored. In reality, she was given incorrect information. One day after she submitted voter registration and candidacy papers, the Election Commission was notified that she couldn’t vote by the Department of Corrections.

Memphis prosecutors charged Moses. It didn’t matter that she didn’t intentionally try to commit voter fraud. They contended she broke the law. Period. She was found guilty.

These cases are just two examples of the difference in treatment and punishment. While I won’t make it a central argument, the race of the insurrectionists vs that of Mason and Moses, may also be a factor. Either way, you could be an insurrectionist or present fraudulent documents to Congress and get off with a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all. The laws may not be unequal, but the discretion in their application leaves a lot to be desired

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