Слике страница

except in the smaller communities where the recipients of relief are well known or easily discoverable.

The Question of Woman Suffrage

The arguments for and against woman suffrage are familiar and need no re-statement here. It is hardly to be presumed that any excursions into the logic of the subject will affect the judgment of the convention in this matter, for as Mr. Justice Holmes has well said: "General propositions do not decide concrete cases. The decision will depend upon a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise."

There are, however, certain historical aspects of the question which deserve consideration in attempting to reach some conclusion concerning this important matter. The agitation in the United States in favor of the extension of the suffrage to women may be said to have begun with the woman's rights convention held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. At this convention a clause asserting the political equality of the sexes was carried by a small majority, in the face of the opposition of many delegates present. Another convention held in 1850 at Worcester, Massachusetts, demanded the suffrage, better educational and industrial opportunities and more equal laws. The right of women to speak in public and organize private societies for public and philanthropic work was asserted.

The agitation thus begun soon bore fruit in the granting of the school suffrage in one form or another in a number of states, particularly in the West. Kentucky had already taken this action in 1838, and between 1859 and 1869, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Wyoming allowed similar rights. Other western states soon followed their example, and between 1879 and 1899 several eastern states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, adopted woman suffrage for school elections. To this form of the suffrage, the right to vote on bond issues. under certain conditions was extended to women in a number of states, including New York.

The extension of the principle to all elections occurred first in 1869 in Wyoming. Nearly thirty years elapsed before another state followed the example of Wyoming. In 1893 Colorado, and in 1896 Utah and Idaho, adopted woman suffrage. This advance was followed by a setback for two decades. Provisions for the enfranchisement of women were defeated by the voters in South Dakota in 1890 and 1897, in Kansas in 1894, in California in 1896, in New Jersey in 1897, and in other states about the same time.

Before another decade elapsed the movement gathered renewed force, and woman suffrage was adopted by Washington in 1910, California in 1911, Kansas, Oregon and Arizona in 1912, and Nevada in

1914, making ten states in all with equal suffrage. In 1913, the legislature of Illinois gave women the right to vote for all statutory officers of the state, and also electors for President of the United States.


A condition precedent to the exercise of electoral control is this -that before a consensus or majority opinion may be taken on any question at issue the "proposal," on the one hand, and the "opposition," on the other, must be so clearly defined and stated that differences in viewpoint can be presented and discussed, and finally that a vote may be taken "for" or "against " or that a "yes" or no "ballot may be cast.

[ocr errors]

Conditions Governing Effectiveness of Electorate

This means that the effectiveness of the electorate depends on the use of an organization and procedure by means of which proposals and counter proposals of officers and candidates who submit questions to the electorate may be brought to a vote.) Fundamental as such a procedure is to popular government, it has been left out of consideration in framing. all our constitutions and in developing the laws and regulations governing authorities under them.

Necessity for Development of a Procedure

This necessity is recognized by the courts. For the purpose of judicial consideration of questions in controversy involving private rights a very exacting procedure has been evolved. Both statutes and rules require the preparation and submission of issues in definite, formal counts, or complaints with answers and replies so framed that there can be no question as to what the issue is when the case is presented to the court for the taking of testimony, argument and decision. Similarly, a very exact procedure is prescribed governing motions and arguments before the court on questions of law; even more minute is the practice controlling the production of evidence, both in court and jury proceedings, and the submission of briefs and arguments of counsel. Public opinion has demanded and supported an organization and procedure wherein courts have surrounded themselves with attorneys, referees and other officers as aides in coming to right decisions. They control every detail of proceedings by rules of practice based on centuries of experience, the aim of which is to facilitate the ends of private justice by clearly defining, presenting and arguing issues in a manner which will enable the court and the jury to decide whether it is "for" or "against " the proponent or complainant.

Notwithstanding the fact that the government has been so exacting in relation to the whole subject of private justice, it has given practically

no attention in this state, and little attention in this country, to the subject of defining, presenting and determining issues having to do with the subjects of political justice-issues, questions, decisions on matters of public policy-questions which affect the happiness and welfare of the whole community-questions which are submitted to the "electorate" as a jury whose duty it is to sit and decide political controversies by ballot. This widely scattered agency of popular control has been left without provisions, either in organization or procedure, even for defining, taking evidence on, and reaching decisions with respect to issues to be determined by ballot.

The Whole Subject Left to Private Initiative

In this country, the whole subject of defining and presenting political issues has been left to private initiative. Here necessity, the mother of invention, has produced a long series of unofficial non-legal devices, which have had for their purpose the doing of things that have been elsewhere more effectively done officially under conditions that contribute to responsibility. Without doing more than to advert to these adaptations, attention is called to the fact that the non-official and detached character of our political agencies called "parties," even since they have been made the subject of regulation, in the nature of things leaves our electoral system defective in the following particulars:

1. The parties themselves, under our system, are irresponsible. Any agency whose responsibility cannot be defined and located in a body of official persons within the government is, of necessity, an irresponsible agency; therefore, it is one that does not make for "responsible" govern



2. Party action is not taken on well-defined current issues. proposals of our political parties are made and submitted. in generalities for the primary purpose of obtaining votes. for persons seeking office and ordinarily they do not present issues arising out of an actual division on important measures or subjects of public business.

3. Proposals by irresponsible non-official agencies are not adapted to securing sound judgment from the electorate and are not adapted to making the government responsive.

The Party Platform as an Attempt to Define Issues

The instrument at present employed in presenting party claims to popular support is what is called a "platform." This is prepared and used to further the efforts of a "party" that is seeking to get control of state offices. It is made up largely of promises and not of issues. As a result of remarkable legislation in New York the party platform is made by an extra-legal and wholly uncontrolled convention and the candidates are nominated by a totally different body-namely, the entire party electorate. Thus it may happen that the platform may be drafted before or after the nomination of candidates and that the candidates of the same party may not only have no harmonious relations, but may even entertain the widest divergence of opinion on matters of public policy. It may happen, also, that one group of the party may control the platform-making convention and another group may nominate candidates wholly out of accord with the express policy which they are supposed to carry out. In short, it is impossible to imagine a system less calculated to secure the union of the party on principles of public policy and to localize responsibility in specified public officials put into power by the party.

Method Not Adapted to Responsible Government

Assuming, however, that a union of party nominees on the principles of the platform is possible under our present system, there are other devices which unavoidably make for irresponsibility in our government. There is no process whereby we may be sure that the " platform" relates to specific acts of officers associated with the public measures and policies in dispute. On the contrary, the "platform" is a long list of generalities and an arraignment-a general list of proposals advanced by one" unofficial body" against another "unofficial body." These non-official organizations and non-official expressions of opinion are not concerned with the definition and decision of a single issue. Parties enter upon a campaign with a platform as a general declaration of political faith in the hope that they may get the electorate to pin their faith to their candidates, rather than settle any one or more of the broad questions presented. An election, therefore, does not approve or disapprove specific acts of officers or of an organized official body called "the government," but it is a count of votes for candidates for office who are not leaders and who do not have anything more than remote relation to what has gone before or what may happen thereafter. That is, our political contests do not center sufficiently in official persons who have performed certain acts of government or carried out specific policies or in candidates who, if elected, will do certain things or establish certain policies.


In all countries and under all systems where an "electorate" is established as an agency of control, it is necessary to provide an organization and a procedure

1. For determining that only such persons vote as are authorized or qualified.

2. For protecting electors from undue influence while at the polls. 3. For obtaining a true record and report of results.

[ocr errors]

This is of equal importance whether leadership is "responsible "irresponsible." If the leader is responsible, he may use all of the executive powers to continue himself in office and further his own usurpation, unless provision is made for the independence of election officers. If leadership is “irresponsible" then the "boss" through his control over the executive may use election officers to continue a régime of spoliation.

Successful Development of Safeguards in the United States

It is a curious reflection upon American political genius that, although it has failed to develop machinery for securing precise and effective action by the electorate on issues and official actions, it has evolved perhaps the most successful and elaborate methods and procedures for the protection of the voter in the exercise of his electoral rights. The first constitution of the state provided for a full and fair experiment with voting by ballot, a device not then generally employed, and since that time the problem of securing a "fair vote and an honest count" has received extensive consideration at the hands of the legislature and constitutional conventions.

The provisions developed for obtaining this desirable result include the following:

1. Registration of voters before election.

2. Official primaries for political parties.

[blocks in formation]

4. Bi-partisan local supervision of elections with multi-partisan

co-operation in watching.

5. State supervision of elections and official count of ballots sub

ject to judicial review.

In view of the attention which has been devoted to the perfection. of this electoral machinery, it would seem that very little remains to be done in the future. The subjects which are still under marked controversy are citizenship and registration, the form of the Australian ballot and the office of the Superintendent of Elections.

« ПретходнаНастави »