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02 11 14315
O have a long array of elective offices seems, at first thought, very democratic. To propose to cut down the list by making some of these offices appointive, seems like "taking power away from the people."
But let us consider an extreme case. In Chicago a recent ballot submitted 57 offices to the people. We New Yorkers, who are accustomed to ballots of 15 to 20 offices, can easily see that 57 is too many to be practical; that no ordinary workaday citizen can reasonably be expected to know who all the candidates are and make 57 separate choices for himself; that so big a ballot makes politics a field for experts only; and that it partially disfranchises all busy citizens and leaves professional politicians in undisputed control. We can see, too, that such a long ambush ballot inevitably makes the citizen rely blindly on the party label for lack of having any personal opinion of his own to express regarding most of the minor offices.
If it were arranged like our new Massachusetts ballot, the citizen would carefully mark the four or five men he knew about-the Mayor, Governor, etc., and then, perforce, vote for the rest of the 57 by putting his mark opposite every nominee labelled "Republican" (or"Democrat"). Party loyalty is not here objected to, but blind dependence on any leadership is perilous.
Chicago does have direct primaries like those which New York is now to have, but there is the same difficulty. It is mere formality to give the voter an extra opportunity to express 57 opinions when he has only three or four opinions to express.
Granted then that a ballot of 57 offices is too long and simply produces an oligarchy called government-by-politicians instead of government by the rank-and-file of the citizenship, we face this question:
How short must the ballot be? Is twenty offices too many? Is ten short enough? Our last constitutional convention laid out about fifteen state, county and judicial offices for the citizens to fill in a typical gubernatorial year—was that too many?
Ask the citizens themselves as they come from their polling places on election day, to please name the fifteen men they have just voted for! You will hardly find one in a hundred who can name the whole fifteen!-merely name them, to say nothing of stating a good reason for preferring one candidate to the other in each case!
The ballot is too long then! You or I may think that the people ought to look up fifteen sets of candidates and pass careful judgment on each of them individually, but our opinion is of no importance. The simple fact is that a ballot of fifteen offices involves more work than his majesty, the citi
zen, cares to do. And Mr. Citizen is supreme. There is nothing to do but deferentially to make the constitution fit the royal inclinations of our citizenship.
The workable limit of the ballot is about five offices. In many municipal elections (under the commission form of government) American citizens, unaided by any emblems or party names on the ballot, seem to have no special difficulty in remembering and picking out five candidates. But where there are seven offices, ready-made "tickets" appear in the campaign, the voters carry memorandum lists to the polls, one ticket or another goes through intact, and the voters begin to find difficulty in recollecting the names of the whole seven whom they voted for.
So not only are our New York ballots too long, but to be completely and securely within the popular grasp they must probably come down to five offices or less. Not until then can the people really rule alone, unaided by politicians and machines.
For a more complete statement of the short ballot principle see "The Short Ballot," a pamphlet obtainable free on request from The National Short Ballot Organization, 381 Fourth avenue, New York.
For a still more thorough statement see "Short Ballot Principles," by Richard S. Childs, $1.10 prepaid from the above office or from any book shop.
The following other pamphlets will be sent free on request:
The Story of the Short Ballot Cities.
(Special rates in quantities.)
Short Ballot Bulletin (bi-monthly), 25 cents per year. Sample copies.
*Short Ballot Cartoons.
The Short Ballot in Illinois.
Reports of Conference for the Study and Reform of County Government.
The City Manager Plan (36 pp., reprinted from Beard's Digest of Short Ballot Charters).
THE STATE ADMINISTRATION
Faults of the Present System.
EW YORK has six state administrative establishments—a big one and five little ones—and six separate loosely-connected administrations going on at the same time, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not. The scheme has been tried since 1846 and is a proven failure.
The minor state offices--the Secretary of State, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, Attorney-General and State Engineer and Surveyor-have been political booty and have been divided up on a geographical, racial or religious basis to get "a well-balanced ticket." In the round of politics good officers have repeatedly been displaced for no reason that had any connection with their conduct. Even the delegates to state conventions never took much interest in them and many of the conventions practically broke up and went home as soon as the governorship was settled, leaving a disorderly and diminishing remnant to make the minor nominations. Few citizens, taken at random on the street, can name the minor state officers. Even serious scandals have hardly lifted those officers into prominence before the people of the state. Such obscurity is dangerous, it is a perpetual invitation to corruption-and the invitation has been accepted more than once. None of these minor offices are truly political. They are technical, routine offices and their incumbents ought to be selected for fitness and kept during good behavior.
Our Amendment and its Advantages.
Our proposal is to make the Governor take the responsibility for these minor offices. Our amendment makes the Secretary of State, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, Attorney-General and State Engineer and Surveyor appointive and removable by the Governor. The Governor also is given the same control over the present appointive state officers, no appointments or removals being subject to confirmation or interference by the Senate.
This sets up the same principle of individual responsibility which has worked so well on a far larger scale in the case of the Mayor of New York City.
This will reduce the state ballot to two offices, Governor and LieutenantGovernor.
1. The measure will bring the state ballot within the field of real oversight by the voters. They will have only two state officers to keep track of instead of seven.
2. The appointive method of filling those minor offices and subjecting them to continuous control will take those offices further from the politicians and nearer to the people. To many it may seem at first thought that nothing could bring an officer nearer to the people than popular election, but sad
experience has shown that popular election, in the case of minor offices like these, takes them nearer to the politicians rather than to the people. To heighten the logic, take an exaggerated case—the Governor's office-boy. He is under surer control by the people (as distinguished from control by the "invisible government") as an appointive officer than he would be if elective. The appointive way, in the case of non-policy-determining offices,. big or little, is the most genuinely popular way of filling positions.
3. It will unify under a single head the officers of the state administration, and the executive policy of the state can be carried out with a harmony and consistency which is not now enforceable. The efficiency of the state's business departments would benefit immensely by such a consolidation under a common head. The National Government has one executive establishment-why should the state of New York require six separate and independent ones? Practically, New York has six governors, for the state engineer, for instance, is a law unto himself and does not need to co-operate with the other officials unless he feels like it. And if there is inefficiency in his office, there is no appeal at present except to the people, who are not looking in that direction because they have so many other offices to watch.
4. The Governor is given power to choose his own instruments and therefore can be held responsible to the people for carrying out his constitutional and statutory duties. The Governor will be able personally to enforce his authority over subordinates, instead of being obliged to let things go or resort to the courts. This would rob the Governor of any excuse based on lack of power over the heads of state departments.
5. The heads of state departments will be more likely to be chosen with reference to their fitness for their particular technical duties, instead of for partisan and vote-winning considerations.
Common Questions regarding our State Amendment.
"Does not the Short Ballot take power away from the people?" No. The people simply transfer their eggs from six baskets into one, where the watching is easier to manage. They don't lose any eggs in the process! On the contrary, the eggs are being stolen now and we want to stop it!
"Doesn't it give the Governor too much power?" This additional patronage would be as follows:
Secretary of State, salary.. $6,000, Exempt Positions.. 19, Sal.... $36,100
Total unclassified and exempt positions, 169, Salaries.
There is nothing terrifying about these figures. They barely exceed the corresponding salary figures for the Public Service Commissions. The Governor already appoints 924 exempt and unclassified positions and the proposed increase in his patronage would therefore be about 18 per cent. The total would still remain a mere fraction of the power given to the Mayor of New York City, or the President of the United States. Place a proper appraisal on the other powers now held by the Governor-the veto power, the legislative leadership, the control of public policies through some of his present appointees like the Public Service Commission and it will be seen that the addition to his total power by this amendment is really nearer 5 per cent. than 18.
"But suppose a bad Governor is elected?" This is a hazard of democracy. The people do make mistakes sometimes, even when they can see what they are doing. But that is no argument for dismembering the administration and lodging part of it in obscurity where the people cannot see what they are doing!
"Could not the Governor build up a great personal machine and make himself practically a king?" If he could, there is nothing to prove that our condition would be worse than it is today, for those minor offices are being used to support machines now, and they are personal, autocratic machines, too! But the boss of any such governor-made machine would be a clear target, legally and unmistakably responsible, a clear gain over the present unofficial, irresponsible boss who can operate mysteriously in the shadows behind the officials. But the addition of 18 per cent. to the Governor's appointive list will not make the Governor a king, just as it has not made the Mayor of New York City a king. In fact appointive power is an embarrassment to an ambitious man, since he must disappoint several applicants to every one he appoints. Every time he uses his power he makes one friend and three enemies!
"But," it is objected, "appointments are frequently made for political reasons and the appointive system will not necessarily get these officers out of politics!" True, but that is not any argument for retaining a system which necessarily keeps them in politics! The appointive plan cannot be any worse in this respect and, unlike the elective plan, can be vastly better! We can't guarantee good government but we can remove needless obstacles to it!
"The comptroller is important-ought he not to remain elective?" No. His importance gives all the more reason for making him interlock smoothly with the rest of the administration. If he were simply an auditor, it might be different. Our amendment, however, gives him special protection against arbitrary and sudden removal.
"Should not the appointments and removals be subject to confirmation by the Senate?" No, for the simple and ample reason that the confirmation idea has been tried and found wanting. It confuses the responsibility. It fills the Senate with intrigue on questions of patronage and sets the senators to trading with the Governor. It all but makes the Senate the real appointing power, while the Governor has to accept the responsibility for the results. We never know