News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Balance of Power

New twist in West Virginia’s constitutional standoff

An epic balance-of-powers fight in West Virginia has taken a new turn.

Last summer, the state House impeached the entire state Supreme Court after evidence surfaced of justices lavishly renovating their offices and otherwise misusing taxpayer money. But just before the state Senate was to open the impeachment trials in October, a temporary high court assembled from retired judges called the proceedings to a halt, ruling them an unconstitutional overstepping of legislative powers.

This week the legislators opened a new line of attack, advancing legislation in the state House Judiciary Committee that would withhold the retirement benefits of the judges who ruled against them last fall – at least until they changed their minds.

Proponents, mostly Republicans, argue the move is an appropriate way to combat judicial overreach. Opponents, mostly Democrats, say it's wrong to fight judicial overreach with legislative overreach.

"Now there are no longer in this state three co-equal branches. We have one branch that believes it's superior and it did so with that decision. We cannot let that decision stand as law," said GOP state Rep. Pat McGeehan.

"The idea that we as one branch of government would hold the retirement of another branch hostage unless they decide a case the way we want them to decide is a dangerous step," countered Democratic state Rep. Chad Lovejoy.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Big Picture
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

During his State of the Union address this year, President Trump said he would stonewall the legislative process if members of Congress don't play ball, writes Neal.

A year of broken standards for America’s democracy

Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.

The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.

Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.

Keep reading... Show less

The founders of Register2Vote, Madeline Eden and Jeremy Smith, preparing registration information for mailing in Texas last year.

After successful Texas debut, tech-based voter registration platform goes national

Having had remarkable success at signing people up to vote in Texas last year, an Austin group of activists is expanding its pilot program into a full-blown national effort to overcome the sometimes ignored first hurdle for people in the voting process — registration.

"There are millions of voters who are registered who don't get out to vote," said Christopher Jasinski, director of partnerships for Register2Vote. "But the unmeasured part of the pie is the actual number of unregistered voters."

Keep reading... Show less