The N.Y. Times, Naturalization, and a Race for the Georgia Legislature

By David North on July 19, 2018

Unlike some of my colleagues here at CIS, I am a lifelong fan of the New York Times; like my colleagues, I am often upset by the paper's often biased, pro-open-borders reporting.

I was reminded of these conflicting emotions this morning as I read this headline in the print edition: "Narrow Reading of State Citizenship Keeps Georgia Woman Off a Ballot".

And its subhead: "A longtime resident, newly naturalized, fights to join a race." (The online version has a slightly different headline.)

Let me pause for a moment of journalistic trivia. Reporters (Richard Fausset in this case) rarely write headlines for their stories. This is done at the copy desk by someone who has read the article and knows exactly how much space is available for the headline, or headlines.

Today's headlines accurately reflect the tone of the story. The abused heroine is Maria Palacios, a 29-year-old woman who has the Democratic nomination for the Georgia House of Representatives; she, as one might expect, entered the country illegally at the age of four, subsequently secured legal status, and became a U.S. citizen 13 months ago, in June 2017. Earlier this year she obtained the nomination, in a district that might elect her to the Georgia House.

Then the Republicans intervened using the courts, saying that the Georgia state constitution requires one to have been a citizen of Georgia for at least two years before being elected to this office. They also argued, successfully, that to be a citizen of the state, one must be a citizen of the United States. So Palacios' name was removed from November's ballot.

The Republican Party, unfortunately nation-wide, is engaged in all too many efforts to limit voting by citizens, creating tough rules for registration, limiting advance voting, and the like, but this case is different. It removes someone from the ballot.

My reaction to this (as, among other things, a one-time Democratic candidate for New Jersey's lower house at the tender age of 22 — I lost) relates to a real outrage in the situation that the reporter barely mentions — the fact that removing Palacios from the ballot means that there will be no Democratic candidate at all in Georgia's 29th District, and so the voters there will have no choice for that seat; the GOP candidate will win automatically.

My sense — again dealing with a factor omitted by the Times — is that it is perfectly reasonable to ask that candidates for office in Georgia, or elsewhere, be citizens for a while before running for office. The U.S. Constitution deals with this issue up front in the fourth paragraph of that document (Article I, Section 2) saying: "No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States."

So Georgia, if anything, has a less restrictive rule than the national Constitution has on this point. That the candidate spent most of her life in the state before getting around to seeking citizenship should not matter.

But Georgia is seriously at fault for not doing what most states do: having a system for nominating someone for office when a vacancy occurs in the course of a campaign. This is a major oversight that can work an injustice on either party.