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Mr. Abbott Then it requires 501,000. Now, if 750,000 votes are cast, it requires how many?
Mr. Marshall If 750,000 votes are cast upon the subject of whether or not the amendment shall be adopted, the aggregate of votes being 750,000 on the subject, then a majority of the votes cast upon the question of the amendment would have to be affirmative votes.
So that in case 501,000 are cast, there must be 500,000 affirmative votes; while if 750,000 votes are cast there need be but 376,000?
Mr. Marshall - Certainly.
Mr. Abbott Mr. Chairman, in order to bring the matter before the committee, I move as an amendment that we strike out, on page 2, line 14, and following, "by the affirmative votes of a majority of all the qualified electors who shall at the same election vote for members of the Assembly; or, third," - leaving the last alternative. It seems to me we do not want the second one there. In other words, we do not want to require 500,000 votes, where only 501,000 are cast, on the affirmative of the proposition.
Mr. Marshall Mr. Chairman, the difficulty of the proposition of the gentleman from St. Lawrence, if his amendment were carried, is this: That if he would require a vote of three-fourths of all the people voting at the election for members of Assembly as a condition of the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution, the amendment could not be carried in the case supposed by me if 501,000 people should vote in favor of the amendment, although they constituted a majority of all the people voting at the election. The provision is intended as a safeguard. Let me make myself clear. Five hundred and one thousand out of a total of one million votes would not be three-quarters of all the people voting for members of Assembly at that election. Now, it might happen, as sometimes happens, that there is practically no opposition to the proposed amendment. Now, the amendment which, on the state of facts supposed, receives 501,000 favorable votes, should be adopted. If you strike out that second alternative, which you have just suggested that it is desirable to strike out, you would require 750,000 votes to be cast upon the proposed amendment, and the 501,000 people who might at that election vote in favor of the amendment would not accomplish that purpose, although they would constitute a majority of all the voters voting at the election. That, of course, would be an injustice, and would render ineffectual the will of the people. So that the purpose of the committee has been to allow a
majority of the people voting at the election to control in any event; but if it is should happen that there should be less than a total vote of the people cast upon a proposed amendment; if only threefourths of the people vote upon the subject it would be sufficient if a majority of those voting upon that subject, so long as they shall be three-fourths of all the people voting for members of Assembly, should cast their votes in the affirmative.
Mr. Abbott — It seems to me that the inconsistency comes from requiring more votes affirmatively, where there is no opposition, than where there is opposition; that is all.
The Chairman - Do I understand the gentleman from St. Lawrence to have offered an amendment?
Mr. Abbott — I do not care to offer any amendment, Mr. Chairman. I simply suggested the matter to the good sense of the chairman of the committee.
Mr. Spencer Mr. Chairman, if my recollection serves right, there is a misprint in line 17 of page 2, in relation to the third alternative. I have not my memorandum with me, but, as I recollect that provision, as finally agreed upon by the committee, it read as follows:
Third, provided three-fourths of such qualified electors voting at such election shall vote thereon by the affirmative votes of a majority of the electors voting thereon," etc. As I recollect it, those words were there, and possibly were left out by the typewriter. I suggest that they be inserted there, if, in the judgment of the committee, it makes the sense more apparent. I offer that as an
Mr. Spencer-I will say, in connection with this proposed amendment, if I may be permitted by the Chair, that it frequently happens when matters of this kind come up before the people, as has been alluded to by the chairman of the committee, that a great many of the people take but little or no interest in the matter; and it very frequently happens that those who desire to vote against the proposition are not able to obtain a ballot to use at the polls. These provisions, requiring a majority vote of the electors voting at the election, were intended to cure or prevent that evil. It might
happen, and it has happened, I think, in the history of this State, that a class of persons interested in carrying through a constitutional amendment would see to it that their friends voted for that proposition. They were organized; they had a material interest back of the constitutional amendment. I think the memory of the gentlemen present in this committee will be sufficient to inform them of events of that character having happened in this State. Those who would naturally be opposed to such an amendment, having no particular interest or matter at stake, and not being united or organized, the question goes by default; a small proportion of the voters take part in voting upon the proposition, and it is carried by the votes of a very few people. In the judgment of the committee such an event as that would be disastrous and should be in some way prevented, and this provision was inserted for that
Mr. H. A. Clark - I am heartily in accord with the provisions of this amendment, but I wish to make a motion to amend the proposition in one respect at page 3, in line 7, after the word " ensuing" insert the word "general."
The Chairman- I will call the gentleman's attention to the fact that there are two amendments now pending. No more are in order at present.
Mr. Barhite - I cannot say that I am fully in accord with the conditions which the committee has named under which the amendments may be approved by the people. I am not in accord with it, from the fact, as it seems to me, that two different standards have been named, one which must be met at a special election, and another at a general election. Now, this proposed amendment provides that, first, the approval of the people shall be expressed at a special election by the affirmative votes of a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the Legislature voting thereon. If I understand that provision, then, if three men who are qualified to vote for a member of Assembly should vote upon a proposed amendment, and, if two of the three should vote in favor and one against, the amendment would be carried. Now, I think it is the experience of every person who has had anything to do with either a general or a special election, that it is more difficult, under ordinary circumstance, to get the will of the people at a special election than it is at a general election, unless there is some question up in which the people are generally interested. It is the experience, and, I think that the figures read by the gentleman of the committee show this, that the votes upon the amendments to the
Constitution fall far behind the votes for the elective officers of the State. The great mass of the people of the State do not seem to be so thoroughly interested as to what shall become part of the organic law as they do as to who shall represent them in the Senate or Assembly, as to who shall be Governor, or even county judge of their own county. For this reason, sir, I do not believe that the first condition should be allowed to stand in the form in which it has been written. I do not believe that an amendment should go into our Constitution which would permit a small number of the electors of the State to stamp it with approval and make it a part of the organic law of the State. I thoroughly believe that there should be a requirement which should take the votes of at least one-half or two-thirds of the electors who are qualified to vote for members of the Assembly, expressed either for or against the proposed amendment, to constitute a decision. Now, the second condition provides, if I understand it correctly, that at a general election it requires an affirmative vote of a majority of all the qualified electors who shall vote for members of the Assembly. Now, under this proposed amendment, we have the condition that at a special election it would be possible for three men to vote upon an amendment and make it part of the organic law of the State, while at a general election it might require the votes of 500,000 persons to carry the amendment. It is a fact, as I said before, that the great mass of the people of the State of New York do not take the interest in amendments to the Constitution that they should take, and I say, with some confidence, that, intelligent as our people are, as proud as we are of their education and their refinement and their interest in the affairs of the State, that you can to-day find thousands of people in the State who hardly know the fact that a Constitutional Convention is now in progress; or, if they do know that fact simply, can scarcely tell you of a question. that has been brought up for consideration here. I desire, sir, at the proper time, after the amendments already offered are disposed of, to offer an amendment, which, it seems to me, will correct the evil or the difficulty of which I have spoken.
Mr. Vedder It may be, Mr. Chairman, hypercritical, but in the second proposition here, page 2, it reads: "Second, if submitted at a general election, by the affirmative votes of a majority of all the qualified electors who shall, at the same election, vote for members of the Assembly"— commencing at line 14, it would seem to read so that you would have to ascertain in some way who voted for members of Assembly, and that, in order to pass this
amendment, you would have to have a majority of those who did vote for members of Assembly the same voters. That is the way it reads. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, entirely clear that it ought to read "by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the electors who are qualified to vote for members of the Legislature." Again, on page 3, is the same criticism, if it be a criticism. Commencing on line "shall be decided by the electors qualified to vote for members of the Legislature, and in case a majority of the electors so qualified, voting at such election for members of the Assembly "it would seem to be the strict construction that you would have to find who voted for members of the Assembly, and would have to have a majority of those who so voted. I simply throw out these suggestions to see if some other language could not be employed, as I have suggested, so that it would be clearer to the ordinary mind.
Mr. Mantanye-I am very much in accord with the general sentiment and principle of this proposed amendment, but it has occurred to me, as has been suggested by the gentleman from Monroe (Mr. Barhite), that there should be, to make this perfect, the same provision for the adoption of a proposed constitutional amendment at a special election as at a general election. We have had some experience in the past, in regard to special elections, and know how difficult it is on such occasions to get the voters out, even when it is on the electing of some officers, as, for instance, in regard to the Constitutional Convention of 1867. The delegates to that Convention, if I remember, were elected at a special election. Therefore, I think that at the proper time an amendment should be made to this section which shall make the same provision, with regard to a special election, as to the number of votes necessary for adoption, that would be required at a general election.
I had also noticed the peculiarity of the wording that has been suggested by the gentleman from Cattaraugus (Mr. Vedder) — that the meaning of these words would seem to require a majority of the same voters who had voted for members of Assembly, which must, by their affirmative votes, declare in favor of the amendment to secure its adoption. But it seems to me that the suggestion that he makes, as to the wording, would not better it at all; that the only change that would be necessary would be to insert in line 15, after the word "of," the words "a number equal to," so that it would read: "Second, if submitted at a general election by the affirmative votes of a number equal to a majority of all the qualified electors who shall, at the same election, vote for members of the Assembly." And that would also be the wording, which