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Discussing the role of federal government in state issues

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade highlights the Constitutional role of states and state legislatures vis-à-vis the role of the federal government. Many of today’s debates in America – abortion, guns, energy, and elections – have their genesis in the fissures between state and federal authority. That is why it is important to have a rule book, and if we are to keep this republic, we must abide by the U.S. Constitution.

In overturning Roe, the Supreme Court does not outlaw abortions, nor does it permit abortions. The Court found that the U.S. Constitution does not resolve the issue of abortion rights, and therefore recognizes that the proper venues to decide the issue are the states (see the Tenth Amendment).

In contrast, the Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law that required its residents to provide a “proper cause” to carry a handgun. There, the Court followed the Constitutional rule book and, in reliance upon the written language of the Second Amendment, it held the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

West Virginians also have been tackling federal vs. state issues when it comes to regulating energy. West Virginia communities have been destroyed by federal policies, and the federal government should not be picking “winners and losers” via subsidies for the energy industry.

All of this brings me to the point of why the Secretary of State is weighing in on these divisive topics: elections. Elections are the means by which the Constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government representatives. The Constitution is clear that absent Congressional action, “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections . . . shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

Government of the people and for the people is best served when issues are debated and decided by representatives elected by the people. Whether it is over abortion, guns, energy, or the means by which we run elections, now is the time for West Virginians to engage.

Engagement can be as simple as registering to vote and voting, or as involved as running for office as a candidate. I can assure you, there is nothing quite as invigorating as putting your name on a ballot and entering the full-body contact sport of campaigning. That is why I salute everyone, regardless of party, who becomes a candidate for office in this great state.

After 49 years, the Supreme Court has returned to its proper role of interpreting the law, not making the law. The Court’s recent decisions reinstate our states and state legislatures as the proper bodies to decide issues not expressly enumerated to the federal government. I have tremendous faith in our state legislature to fulfill their role as representatives of the people of West Virginia.

We have a General Election in just four months. West Virginia voter rolls have never been cleaner, access to voting has never been easier, and election integrity has never been better. Now is the time to get registered, check your registration, educate yourself on the issues, and learn about the candidates. Then, be sure to vote on November 8th. The more people who vote, the more confidence we have in our election outcomes.

Together, let’s develop family-friendly support structures. Let’s encourage community involvement. And let’s pull together to help the most disadvantaged among us. We should focus on children in our education system, those in need of adoption and foster care services, and those ensnared in drug abuse situations.

Last week’s Supreme Court decisions represent a milestone in state and federal government separation. Let’s not squander this opportunity by further dividing ourselves and our country with senseless finger-pointing and name-calling. Instead, let’s seize the day and take charge of our own destiny in West Virginia.

Our rule book is the U.S. Constitution. Participate in our God-given right of self-determination and exercise our Constitutional right to vote. In that way, we can best fulfill our state motto of Montani Semper Liberi, Mountaineers are always free!

(Mac Warner is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the WVU School of Law. He spent 23 years in the United States Army retiring at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He is serving in his fifth year as West Virginia’s 20th Secretary of State.)

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