Wednesday, April 10, 2024

OPINION COLUMN: "A republic, if you can keep it"




"A republic, if you can keep it"

When Benjamin Franklin was once asked what type of government the Constitutional Convention adopted, his cautionary response was, “A republic, if you can keep it.

The U.S. Constitution was designed to create a system of checks and balances, preventing one branch of the federal government from becoming too powerful and ensuring power is held by the electorate.

In recent years, we have witnessed an ever-increasing trend away from "by the people" and towards government overreach and unlawful executive orders.

On March 7, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14019, or Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, which called for federal agencies to act beyond their Congressionally-specified functions and infiltrate state-run elections. The EO directs federal agencies to develop plans to register voters at the state level without first consulting the states.

Neither the U.S. Constitution nor the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) includes any such grant of executive authority to the President to order federal agency involvement with state-level voter registration processes. Any actions to reconfigure states’ voter registration duties and responsibilities must be authorized by Congress or the states themselves.

Further, Section 9 specifically instructs the U.S. Attorney General to establish procedures for educating felons on how to register to vote, facilitate voter registration, assist vote by mail, and require the U.S. Marshals Service to modify intergovernmental agreements and jail contracts with the aforementioned requirements. These efforts are not only an intrusion into state matters but are a misuse of federal revenue to register potentially ineligible felons and/or illegal immigrants.

When the EO was released, 14 other Secretaries of State and I submitted a letter to President Biden requesting he rescind the order, citing the lack of Constitutional authority and Congressional approval.

You may be surprised, but we received no response.

Upon learning the U.S. Marshals are currently modifying 936 intergovernmental agreements and jail contracts, plus having received a copy of one from El Paso, I decided to try a different route.

Last month, I sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting information as to the scope of implementation of the EO in Mississippi and voicing concerns regarding the lack of authority and threat to the integrity of Mississippi’s elections. Additionally, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for any communication between DOJ officials and any jail or detention facility in Mississippi.

The response: my FOIA request was overly broad.

I then had the chance to ask a White House official about the plans submitted by each agency to carry out the illegal executive order. I was told those plans are not public, and they never intended for them to be public. So much for transparency.  

Having received no information or collaboration regarding the EO’s impact in Mississippi, as the state’s Chief Election Officer, it is incumbent upon me to raise awareness about the gross overreach of the federal government in our elections.

The federal government should not be in the business of registering and turning out voters in Mississippi. I encourage you to contact our office or your local election officials should you have questions about registering to vote or for more information about voting in Mississippi elections.

To keep our republic, now, more than ever, we need an engaged electorate. Election laws should be handled by the states as designed by the Constitution.


Secretary of State
State of Mississippi






Elizabeth Holbert Jonson | 601-927-8688