ACLU launches 'constitution voter' election drive
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday September 17, 2008

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Although it can't endorse a candidate in this year's election, the American Civil Liberties Union wants to make sure voters have the Constitution in mind when they head to the polls.

On Wednesday, the 221st anniversary of America's founding document, the ACLU launched its "Constitution Voter" campaign, encouraging voters to sign a pledge demanding the next president restore the rule of law and constitutional protections it says President Bush has abandoned.

“The next president will have the power to piece back together our Constitution after eight years in which it has been torn apart. Whoever is elected president must act with energy and conviction to restore our lost liberties, end torture and hold accountable those who have broken the law,” ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero said in a news release. “By pledging to be a Constitution Voter, you can make sure that the next president will be committed to restoring the Constitution and the fundamental freedoms it protects. When we step into the ballot box this November, our leaders need to know that we care about our liberty. We want the next president to uphold the law – not try to subvert it.”  

Encouraging its members to gather signatures at local festivals, farmers markets and other gatherings in their cities, the ACLU says it will deliver signed pledges to the presidential candidates. The group is nonpartisan and says protecting the constitution needs to extend beyond party squabbles.

The pledge includes the following statements:

• I believe that no one – not even the president – is above the law.

• I oppose all forms of torture, and I support closing the Guantánamo Bay prison, shutting down the military commissions, and ending indefinite detention.

• I oppose warrantless spying.

• I believe that government officials, no matter how high-ranking, should be held accountable for breaking the law and violating the Constitution.

• I believe that the Constitution protects every person's rights equally – no matter what they believe, how they live, where or if they worship, and whom they love.

• I reject the notion that we have to tolerate violations of our most fundamental rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

• I am deeply committed to the Constitution and expect our country's leaders to act on that commitment – every day, without fail.

As President Bush's time left in office gets shorter every day, many progressives in and out of government are focused on reversing his pursuit of a "unitary executive," which vested extraordinary power in the White House, and undoing his more egregous policies, like authorizing torture, warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention of terror suspects.

Ealier this week, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) gathered a dozen experts on Capitol Hill to consider how to restore the rule of law. Rep. Dennis Kucinich says a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" is the best way to get the country back on track.

The ACLU says the next president -- whether it's John McCain or Barack Obama -- has plenty of work in front of him and needs to start immediately.

“The next president will have an historic opportunity to restore the Constitution and the rule of law,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office “Every executive order issued by President Bush can be reversed by the executive orders of our next president – with the stroke of a pen, on day one.”

As part of its campaign, the ACLU is encouraging voters to go door-to-door and emphasize the importance of constitutional issues, and it has issued guidelines on asking candidates about constitutional issues during campaign stops. It's also encouraging members to send in photos of themselves holding up signs reading "I'm a Constitution Voter" that the group will use in online advertisements.