Capital Editorial

Our say: School panel argument moves to court, April 12, 2016.

Snider Comment

This lawsuit only relies on a violation of Maryland’s Constitution. But the courts have found that a similar school board nominating commission with stakeholders appointed by a subset of the population and not by elected officials or the general populace violated the one-person, one-vote (“Equal Protection”) provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Admittedly, Anne Arundel’s version of a school board nominating commission is unique so there isn’t an exact legal precedent. The basic democratic principle reflected in the 14th Amendment is that special interests shouldn’t have disproportionate power in formal electoral processes for general purpose offices (school boards have been ruled to be such a general purpose office but not, say, the judiciary). The U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment has been very much a moving target since the mid-20th Century. But the clear trajectory has been to more expansive applications of the one-person, one-vote principle.

I’d suggest that the farming out of SBNC commissioners to stakeholders such as public employee unions represents an egregious form of vote suppression, to use a popular modern locution. For when a narrow subset of the population is given disproportionate electoral powers, it effectively suppresses the voting power (that is, core civil rights) of the rest of the population.

Alas, the Maryland Constitutional argument only addresses the separation of powers principle, not the political equality principle. For that principle to be given due consideration in the context of the SBNC, I’d suggest relying on the U.S. Constitution as the key legal reference document.