Is Clyde J. Harkins mentally ill, or just a normal person who believes weird things? Or is he a little bit of both?
This is the real question raised by the “Verified Notice of Contest Election Fraud” dated December 8, 2006, that he recently filed with the Secretary of State challenging the validity of Moe Keller’s election to Colorado’s State Senate this fall.
The State Senate is vested with responsibility for judging the elections and qualifications of its members, following the federal model.
If the State Senate even chooses to acknowledge this contest when it convenes in January, it is almost certain to reject the contest, which is based on bizzare legal theories rooted in a fringe political movement known as Constitutionalism.
The document occassionally shows what could be read as sardonic wit. Particularly amusing is a section entitled “NO ATTORNEYS” which commences by stating:
You are noticed that in a court of record, NO attorneys at law shall be allowed in these hearings because they cannot and have not met the ethical and moral standards mandated in Chapter V, Section 16(1), p. 90-96 in the general laws.
But, in context, this challenge is too earnest to be viewed simply as a pointed political joke or piece of performance art in the same vein as a recent initiative proposal lodged with the Secretary of State to add the words “Peace Is Possible” to the state constitution.
Mr. Harkins was the 2006 candidate for Colorado Governor from the American Constitution Party. He ran this quote from himself on his campaign web page:
Colorado needs a Governor who will stand up for the Biblical World View in the public square and alert citizens of the Globalists’ plan to destroy the lives, liberty and property of Colorado’s citizenry.
He is a Constitutionalist, a political philosophy so far in the right wing that it almost goes full circle to anarchism, whose Manifesto decries the godlessness of our modern political institutions and essentially claims that almost all institutions of contemporary government are so hopeless at odds with their constitutional roots that almost everyone but the constitutionalists themselves are conducting their affairs illegally.
The most famous Constitutionalist clashes with the government have been their tax protests. As Chuck Baldwin, a minister who is a Constitutionalist, puts it:
You might be a Constitutionalist if you believe that the income tax is both unconstitutional and immoral and, along with the I.R.S., should be abolished.
A significant number of tax protestors are Constitutionalists who go beyond urging the abolition of the I.R.S. and actually refuse to pay income taxes, which they claim are not legally binding obligations. The Courts do not take kindly to this kind of argument, so the I.R.S. routinely secures court sanctions and criminal convictions against Constitutionalists who go this far, often after prolonged legal battles.
In the same vein, a Constitutionalist convicted of crimes in Carbondale lost an appeal based on the questionable claim that the criminal courts didn’t have jurisdiction over him because he had disavowed his U.S. citizenship.
A few selections from the contest can show its flavor.
He argues that every state legislator is a fraud because they don’t have signed and notarized oaths on file with the Secretary of State:
The present day 100 member general assembly acting in its official capacity are presenting the illusion of real people when in reality they are fictions representing the de facto STATE OF COLORADO, Inc. as board members of a corporation. . . .
MOE KELLER, is a citizen of the United States by choice and is one of 100 members of the general assembly that is unqualified and improperly credentialed member of the general assembly to sit in the senate because he has no subscribed and sworn oath of office recorded with the secretary of state as manded by Colorad’s constitution[.]
Harkins is correct that there are no oaths for legislators on file with the Colorado Secretary of State, but only for the benign reason that, the state constitution calls for state legislators take their oaths of office orally and en masse in the Capitol building on the first day of the session, and that proof of this is kept on file with the clerk of each respective house of the general assembly in its official journal, rather than in written form filed with the Colorado Secretary of State, the method used by judges and executive branch officials.
Harkins also argues that Moe Keller is not qualified to be a State Senator because Keller is registered to vote, stating that:
MOE KELLER is an eligible elector by virtue of volunteering to being a controlled registered voter.
Harkins goes far beyond Republicans who are happy to ignore votes not counted by electronic voting machines in races like Florida’s 13th Congressional District this year.
In his up is down world, anyone who is registered to vote is not entitled to vote, and any vote not cast on a paper ballot is automatically invalid.
In 1962 the[sic] created registered electors, federal citizen of the United States became eligbile electors such as registering to vote in contradiction to the Irrevocable Ordinance as stated on page 53 thus creating a democracy inapposite to the Republic. . . .
The 37,562 votes counted for MOE KELLER is contested from the canvass of the election by the conty clerk in Jefferson because several thousand votes were unlawfully and illegally cast by eligible electors. I was one of the qualified elctors denied the right to have my vote counted . . .
MOE KELLER was not duly elected by the people, the qualified electors, by a paper ballot[.]
It would, of course, not be surprising if Harkins was not permitted to vote in 2006 because he filed an affidavit with the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder a few days before the election declaring, among other things, that he was not registered to vote.
Affiant is an American, but not a 14th Amendment U.S. federal citizen by registering to vote.
Intentionally cancelling your voter registration is not a really good way to insure that your vote is counted.
In short, Harkins, like most Constitutionalists, share the rather weird view that almost everyone else is violating the law, while they, the handful of virtuous and lawful people in the world, are following the law. In his world, the pedantic claim that the United States is a Republic, rather than a democracy, means that it is O.K. to ignore the overwhelming near consensus view of how the world works.
Constitutionalists, while sometimes sympathetic with self-proclaimed militias that seek to impose their fringe views on the public by force, have historically proved “mostly harmless,” confining their protests to methods more bureaucratically vexing than seriously threatening. And, Harkins himself, a leader in this movement, is not alone in his views. But, it is hard to view this movement which cloaks bizzare counterfactual interpretations of the world around them with legal jargon, much of it nonsense, as entirely sane.