The State of the State of our Maryland Constitution
By S. Alexandra Tuttle
This coming January, some of us will be watching with heart-felt pride as legislators come together in the Maryland State House to be sworn into office. Article I, Section 9 of the Maryland State Constitution says that “Every person elected or appointed to any office of profit or trust, under this Constitution or under the Laws made pursuant thereto, shall before he enters upon the duties of such office, take and subscribe the following oath, or affirmation: “ I … do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States; and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland and support the Constitution and Laws thereof; and that I will, to the best of my skill and judgment, diligently and faithfully, without partiality or prejudice, execute the office of …….according to the Constitution and laws of this state…” A very solemn promise, to be sure.
But my question for Maryland legislators is this: Have you read your U.S. Constitution and your state Constitution lately? Do you actually know what is in these documents and do you really intend to uphold them? “Currently, legislators are given a copy, but there is no requirement to read it,” according to Minority Whip, Delegate Kathy Szeliga.
But maybe it’s time to change that.
For example, our Democrat–controlled Montgomery County Delegation routinely walks in lock-step to block any legislation that would help improve the sanctity of the voting process. It would seem that they have forgotten the gist of Article I, Section 7 of the Maryland State Constitution that they swore to uphold – all of it – which states: “The General Assembly shall pass Laws necessary for the preservation of the purity of Elections (1977, ch.681, ratified Nov. 7. 1978).” Every year, Republicans either sponsor or co-sponsor legislation, which attempts to do just that.
And while our Maryland legislators may have ‘forgotten’ that particular provision, when reminded, they double down, start going down the path of distraction and begin talking about disenfranchisement. One chairwoman, in particular, harkened back to Hurricane Katrina and victims not having access to their identification. Because she was the former chairwoman, she interrupted the testimony and went off on a tangent – and that was it. The bill died in committee.
Of course, the failure to abide by their oath of office extends beyond the state legislators. Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2018 Bradley Symposium, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The speakers’ topic titles reconfirmed much of what we all know intuitively: “The failure to adhere to the structural limitations and assigned responsibilities of our U.S. Constitution by all three branches of the federal government has facilitated the breakdown of the rule of law.” This poses a significant threat to liberty, freedom and the rights of American citizens. What’s more, it has been an insidious ongoing effort since at least the days of President Woodrow Wilson. But as Senator Mike Lee says in his new book, Our Lost Constitution, “legislators and presidents have a responsibility to protect the Constitution, and voters have the power to require those leaders to abide by it – all of it…. every time we go to the ballot box.”
Senator Lee is right of course, but unfortunately that can occur after the fact, as we have seen after years of inaction on simple voter integrity bills in Maryland. We the people could ask our candidates and current legislators when they are campaigning or during debates if they would be willing to initial each page of the Constitution, a common practice when signing contracts/legal documents that would function as a contract with their constituents. That way, we would know their intent and can hold our candidates/legislators accountable at the ballot box. Or there could be a requirement that all legislators read the documents on the first day of the session.
Holding legislators accountable in this way would be a solid step forward in order to prevent a further drift away from our founding documents.