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Today the senate judiciary Committee begins hearings on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. We hope that the senators question him thoroughly on two topics that are crucial to the continued viability of democratic institutions. One is the limit of executive power. The other is the principle of one person, one vote. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose seat Alito seeks, wrote in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that “a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens . . . .Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.” In that case, the high court ruled that a citizen deemed an enemy combatant by the government and detained at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, should be given “a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker.” Other issues likely to come before the court may involve the Bush administration’s use of warrantless eavesdropping and its policies on torture. If Alito’s view is that executive power may proceed unchecked, then we question whether he will safeguard the rights of citizens, as the Constitution requires. With regard to one person, one vote, Alito has in the past criticized rulings of the Warren-era court that established this principle. Senators should find out whether he believes that the voting power of an elite few should prevail or, if not, why he objected to cases that establish what now seems to be a cornerstone of democracy.

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