Virginia Republicans: “Shall” Does Not Mean “Mandatory”

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    I was reading this article on Virginia Republicans’ ramming through their Congressional redistricting plan, and one line in particular jumped out at me:

    Republicans are making two arguments: Past Virginia court cases have established that the word “shall” in the constitution doesn’t mean “mandatory,” and even if the General Assembly did violate the constitution, a map drawn by the legislature is still preferable to one drawn by judges.

    That’s right, according to Virginia Republican’ts, when you read the word “shall” in the constitution, it doesn’t mean “mandatory.” Alrighty. So, I went to the U.S. constitution and replaced a few “shalls” with “could, if they feel like it”s. Check out the results – the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as written by Virginia Republican’ts!

    *”All legislative Powers herein granted could, if folks happen to feel like, be vested in a Congress of the United States, which could, if people again happen to feel like it, consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. But there are other options, of course, like maybe a House of Burgesses, Lords, Mirrors, Horrors, whatever, and we’re just sayin’…this stuff’s all optional, ok?!?”

    *”The Congress could, if it feels like it, assemble at least once in every Year (or every few years, or never), and such Meeting could, if Congress feels like holding it and gets around to holding it, be on the first Monday in December (or January, or not), unless Congress feels like they’d rather, by Law, appoint a different Day to meet, or no day at all, or just have a party every day, or some other option we’ll leave undecided and non-mandatory!”

    *”The executive Power could, if people happen to feel like it, be vested in a President of the United States of America (or a King, Queen, Grand Vizeer, Tsar, Emperor, Pasha, Sultan, etc.). He optionally could hold his Office during the Term of four Years…but five years would be fine, as would three, or three and a half, or eleven, etc. You get the idea; be creative, have fun with it!”

    *”The President might, possibly, if he and others happen to so inclined at the moment – it’s all totally optional though, dudes! – be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. Or just the Army. Or just one ship of the Navy. Or maybe a horse? Or not.”

    *”Congress might, depending on its mood on any particular day, make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Or it might decided to make laws regarding any or all of those things. Or one from Column A and one from Column B. Whatever, we’re down with it!”

    *”A well regulated Militia, being necessary (well, not really, that sounds too mandatory!) to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, might or might not be infringed, if Congress feels like not so infringing. Or Congress could change its mind whenever it feels like it, because none of this is mandatory anyhoo. Whatever, rock on dudes!”

    *”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party might happen to have been duly convicted (and any other excuse you can think of), probably ought not/shouldn’t exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. But it’s really not our call, and it’s all so complicated anyway, and our heads hurt from drinking all that ale, plus it’s freakin’ hot in here and a/c still hasn’t been invented, and everybody stinks to high heaven, and there’s a dysentery outbreak going around, so whatever you all feel like, it’s cool with us. We are so outta here!!!”

    P.S. In their next installment, Virginia Republican’ts rewrite the Ten Commandments. Example: It wouldst be cool if thou didn’t kill or commit adultery, but it’s totally optional, so doest what thou feelest like doing!

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      I cannot believe that the GOPers who now control Virginia’s government don’t accept the basic fact that makes our representative government function – we are a nation and a state of laws, not men. The supreme law is the U.S. Constitution. The highest law in Virginia, subject to the U.S. Constitution, is the Constitution of Virginia, not a bunch of guys who want to get their way, no matter what.

      “Even if the General Assembly did violate the constitution, a map drawn by the legislature is still preferable to one drawn by judges.” Unbelievable. If the General Assembly violated the Constitution, the act they passed is null and void because it is unconstitutional.

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      “To correctly use ‘shall,’ confine it to the meaning “has a duty to” and use it to impose a duty on a capable actor.” Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 940-941 (2d ed., Oxford U. Press 1995).

      So, the Virginia Constitution is stating that the legislature has a duty to pass a redistricting plan in the year following the census. The General Assembly did not meet their duty to the people.  

    • NotJohnSMosby

      I hope we retake the Lt.Gov’s race in next year, since it suddenly has massive importance.  And I hope that if we do, the 20 Dem Senators have the collective balls to do exactly to the Republicans what they’re doing right now to us.  

    • are the norm.