Слике страница

Citizenship and Registration

In the effort to prevent fraudulent registration and what is known as the "floating vote" evil, provisions have been inserted in the constitution to the effect that each elector must have been a citizen of the United States for ninety days, an inhabitant of the state for one year, a resident of the county for four months and the election district for thirty days preceding the date of the election at which he casts his ballot. Stringent as these safeguards are, there is a demand for increasing the terms of citizenship and residence in the county and election district. By the present limitations thousands of otherwise qualified and honorable citizens are deprived of the right to vote every year, particularly in the cities where the conditions of life are such as to require constant movement of residence, especially by workingmen and the professional classes. To disfranchise still more honorable citizens in an effort to prevent illegalities, instead of strengthening the machinery for preventing fraud, is attacking the problem in the wrong way, and cannot be too vigorously condemned. Whether intended as such or not, it, in fact, is another political device for disfranchising the voters of New York City on the untenable assumption that there is more corruption there than in the rural districts of the


The Form of the Australian Ballot

The objection has arisen that the Australian ballot may be so devised as to become an instrument of the irresponsible boss if the party column is employed in the arrangement of the names of candidates. The constitution merely provides that elections, except for such town officers as may by law be directed to be chosen otherwise, shall be by ballot, but the form of the ballot may be greatly varied under this constitutional provision. Indeed, under it expedients may be resorted to that will violate the spirit of the constitution while adhering to the letter.

It has therefore been proposed that the present statutory safeguards against the party column ballot should be established in the constitution. Such proposals, however, seem to be based on a misconception of the real source of the difficulties arising out of the party column system, namely, upon the erroneous idea that the party is normally an evil, whereas the real objection is not so much to the party as to its irresponsibility, Where the representatives of a party can be made entirely responsible for the conduct of the government when placed in control, there can be no objection to giving the party full recognition on the ballot. Where, however, the administrative branch of the government is broken into innumerable elective offices the long party column ballot becomes the ambush in which the invisible party boss hides his train of petty minions. To scatter these candidates for minor offices among a number of groups or place them in alphabetical order does not in fact make them responsi

ble. The objections therefore to the present constitutional provisions respecting the ballot should be directed to the structure of the government itself—not to the form of the ballot. If responsibility in the government is properly established, the determination of the form of the ballot may be safely left to the legislature.

State Supervision of Elections

The third administrative problem in connection with safeguarding the exercise of the franchise is state supervision of elections. In other states the control of the election process is left to local agencies, subject of course to judicial review under certain circumstances. In New York state also there are several local authorities charged with functions relative to preparing and distributing the ballots, receiving and counting the ballots, and policing the polling places, but to these functionaries there is added a central officer, known as the superintendent of elections, supported by a large staff of deputies whose duty it is to aid in preventing illegal registration of voters and illegal voting. This central control is the product of conditions which are almost peculiar to New York. Broadly speaking, the political faith of Greater New York City is different from that of the "up-state" region, as it is known in political circles. Out of this rivalry of parties came the establishment of a state supervision of all elections directed against the City of New York. To speak frankly, it was a Republican device for preventing frauds in a Democratic community. Although the expedient accomplished some very good results, it was never regarded as wholly satisfactory from any angle and was the subject to 'constant criticism and occasional modification, the last being in an act passed in 1915.

The principal features of the system as now constructed are as follows:

1. Supervision is centralized in the hands of one superintendent of elections, instead of three.

2. The supervision is state-wide and not confined to cities..

3. All deputies are made completely subject to the control of the superintendent who appoints and removes them at pleasure. They are no longer to be the mere nominees of county chairmen of political parties.

The chief functions vested in this branch of the government are:
1. The investigation of all questions relating to registration of


2. The arrest of persons who violate the provision of the chapter on elections or the penal law relating to crimes against the elective. franchise.

3. Attendance at the polling places and co-operation in the enforcement of the election law.

Obviously here is an arm of the government endowed with enormous power. It is substantially at the disposal of the governor who appoints the superintendent of elections, and may remove him. It may readily become a partisan instrument because the deputies are uncontrolled by either by bi-partisan provisions or the restrictions of the civil service law. As such it may be used as unfairly as were the federal marshals and their deputies under the "force bills" of Reconstruction days, who became so odious throughout the country that the whole system was abandoned. At all events no effective and unpartisan state supervision of elections. has yet been devised. Charges of maladministration in the work have been constant. It remains to be seen whether the present law will prove more satisfactory than past measures and whether attempts at state supervision of elections are not more dangerous (where not futile) than the practice of trusting to local officers, party rivalry and non-official efforts in every community.



Provisions of Law Governing the Qualifications, Method of Selection, Tenure, Compensation, and Welfare of Persons Employed in the Public Service.

Lest it may be thought that the word "official" is here employed in the narrow sense recognized by courts in distinguishing the administrative officers from members of the legislature, it is to be first noted that the use here made is to differentiate those who are in the organized public service from the "electorate."

As was pointed out in the preceding chapter, the public agents other than the "electorate" consist of the personnel charged with the duty of "representing" the electorate between elections, and the "administration "a personnel charged with the duty of conducting the business. of the state.

Subdivisions of Subject

The problem of selecting such official agents, determining their qualifications and personal rights, and maintaining those conditions requisite for the full and satisfactory discharge of their duties, is a fundamental problem which should be dealt with concretely in constitutional and statutory provisions governing the government. Any quest, therefore, for responsible and efficient government must go deeply into the establishment of:

1. Proper methods for selecting official agents-election or appointment.

2. Tenures of office adapted to the ends sought.

3. Adequate tests to be applied in determining the fitness and qualifications of public servants.

4. Satisfactory conditions governing the treatment, promotion and dismissal of public servants.

Importance of Separate Consideration

The solution of these problems with reference to standards of responsiveness, responsibility, and efficiency has never been undertaken. in a systematic and thorough manner by any convention or other body of representatives in this state. There are many provisions in the present constitution governing the choice, qualifications, removal, rights, and disabilities of public agents (see Appendix, Pages 199 to 210, but the subject as a whole has received no extended treatment. On the contrary, temporary expedients and partisan consideration have been too

often the decisive factors in determining what officers should be elected, what officers should be appointed, and what conditions should be attached to public employment. Where attempts have been made to regulate the conditions of official employment in the public interest, they have usually been negative in character-that is, designed to prevent known evils such as the so-called spoils system rather than to promote efficiency. How to obtain advantage for some partisan group or to prevent official agents. from doing harm-not a reasoned effort to formulate a constructive program has been the predominating consideration in shaping a very large number of provisions in the present law governing elections, appointments, qualifications and removals.

METHODS OF SELECTING PUBLIC AGENTS-ELECTION OR APPOINTMENT When tested by constructive standards, the present constitution reveals a remarkable absence of consistency. Obviously, in determining what agents should be elected by popular vote and what appointed, both the purpose of the "electorate" and the demands which are to be made of the official personnel, as a means of making the government responsive and responsible, are to be taken into account. But it is not apparent that these considerations have been the determining factors in the organization of the existing government. In adapting methods to the purpose of the "electorate," it is desirable that they shall be such that popular will may be accurately reflected in the government, but it does not appear that the preceding conventions have sought to discover what and how many agents should be chosen by the popular vote, in order to attain this result.

Election of Members of the Legislature and the Governor

With respect to certain governing agents, the method of choice. has, of course, been easily determinable. The representative principle itself requires that the legislature should be chosen by popular vote, but as is pointed out in another relation (below, pp. 60-64), the decision as to the method of determining what is the popular choice is not so easily reached. Similar considerations of responsiveness and responsibility have likewise brought about the popular election of the governor. serious criticisms of that process of selection have ever been made and the other states which originally provided for the choice of the governor by the legislature or by an electoral college have abandoned them to follow the example of New York and Massachusetts.

Election of Other Officers


At this point, agreement among publicists and statesmen on the matter of election versus appointment and consistency in our state constitutions disappear. In determining the methods of selecting all of

« ПретходнаНастави »