As the election nears, Amendment E (J.A.I.L.) is starting to pop up a bit more frequently on the editorial pages. Here’s a look a few recent mentions.
First, as local residents know, the Argus Leader began running its election positions and endorsements. It didn’t use many column inches on Amendment E but it was to the point. Headlined “Reject blatant proposal for revenge,” the editorial said:
Constitutional Amendment E – the measure promoted to hold judges accountable – is nothing more than a proposal for revenge, a path to anarchy and chaos.* * *
This measure would allow special grand juries to ignore all [existing laws and procedures], allowing even prison inmates – criminals – to go after the judges and juries in their cases.
It is wrong. It turns on its head everything we in South Dakota know is right.
In today’s Washington Post, Andrew Cohen, its legal columnist and the chief legal analyst for CBS News, was equally blunt in an op-ed piece:
Speaking of senseless, welcome to South Dakota, where supporters of Amendment E hope a new day will soon dawn where citizens will be able to turn the table upon judges and punish jurists over unpopular decisions. …. Amendment E, as in Error, means that a group of citizens who don’t like a judge’s decision — remember, judges when interpreting the Bill of Rights are the only checks against the tyranny of the majority — can take their revenge….. There is nothing subtle about it Amendment E: (sic) vehemently anti-judiciary forces want to diminish the authority of the courts and to destroy the independence of the judiciary. And the worst part? They seem to be winning, if recent polls in South Dakota are accurate. Just imagine what the passage of Amendment E would mean to the practice of law, and the legal system itself, in South Dakota. Just imagine what will happen when the inmates are allowed to run the asylum.
Last week, the Watertown Public Opinion not only urged a “no” vote, it took on the poll the J.A.I.L.ers tout to claim overwhelming support for the measure. After noting the poll was distributed to media in the state by the South Dakota Newspaper Association after Amendment E backers paid for that service, the newspaper said it was “an understatement” to call the poll question “misleading.”
We’d hazard to guess that 99 percent of the people,when asked, “do you love motherhood and apple pie?” would respond with a “yes.” And we’d bet too that most people would agree that a judge found guilty of misconduct not once but three times shouldn’t be on the bench.
So ask the right question if you’re an Amendment E supporter to get the answer (“yes”) you want. That’s what has happened here. A misleading question has resulted in misleading results. There has been a failure of sorts on different levels. First, the question shouldn’t have been asked as it was, we think, and, second, mass distributing misleading information isn’t something we’d expect from our professional news association in South Dakota.
While I continue to believe media coverage of Amendment E and its ramification has been sparse, it will hopefully pick up in the coming weeks. At least the media not only appear to have been paying attention, they see through the smokescreens and representations that form the basis of the J.A.I.L. campaign.
Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for President. One hopes it is the same half.