Heartbeat Away from Having a Heartbeat

23 Nov

Is there a more useless elected office than Lieutenant Governor? If you live in a federal system country, it’s likely you have one, but I’d bet money you don’t even know their name. Their entire role is to fill in if the big guy goes down. So why bother?

The reason we have a lieutenant governor in the United States is because there’s a vice president. And Article 4, Section 4 of the US Constitution says:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

This has usually been interpreted by Congress as “when you write your state constitution, copy ours.” This is also why we have a Senate and a House of Representatives in (almost) every state in the Union, even though after three Supreme Court cases in the 60’s, both houses are elected by population, not county. (It was part of the civil rights movement–preventing newly enfranchised blacks from gaining power. Rural whites could always dominate local senate elections and keep urban blacks in the minority.)

For example, here in Arizona, we’re one of five states in the Union that doesn’t have a lieutenant governor. If the governor leaves office, it goes to the Secretary of State, who is voted in separately. This can be a problem because the SoS can be from a separate party, and in recent history, in the last four unexpected governor changes, the twice it went to a member of the other party.

So Arizona legislators tried to put a constitution change on the ballot to allow for a lieutenant governor. Twice. And since I voted in the last election, I can tell you, it wasn’t there. Enough people realized how pointless the idea was that it didn’t even make the ballot.

So as a minarchist (least government works best), that makes me very happy to live here. The only state I’m prouder of is Nebraska, which got rid of its two house legislature, went with a unicameral, and divides up their electoral votes based on House districts, which honestly makes it more representative.

However, the lieutenant governor’s role has usually been a) reward a party hack who’s been working to get noticed and b) do whatever scut work the governor doesn’t want. And frankly, we don’t need it.

I could be wrong. Do you like the idea of a lieutenant governor? Do you wish we could get rid of more government positions? Do we need a traffic czar? Let me know in the comments below!

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