A study of electoral procedures and voter turnout

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A study of electoral procedures and voter turnout
Fulton, Anthony
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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v, 84 leaves : ; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Voting -- United States ( lcsh )
Voter registration -- United States ( lcsh )
Political participation -- United States ( lcsh )
Political participation ( fast )
Voter registration ( fast )
Voting ( fast )
United States ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado at Denver, 1994. Political science
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 80-84).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Political Science.
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Anthony Fulton.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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31159793 ( OCLC )


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A STUDY OF ELECTORAL PROCEDURES AND VOTER TURNOUT by Anthony Fulton A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfullment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Political Science 1994 1.


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Anthony Fulton has been approved for the Departme"nt of Political Science by I I Date


Fulton, Anthony (M.A., Political Science) A Study of Electoral Procedures and Voter Turnout Thesis Directed by Professor Jana Everett ABSTRACT The basic problem concerning voter participation in the United States is that if the majority fails to register and vote, then a strong mandate is not achieved. Special interest groups and powerful blocks of voters with narrow agendas dominate the process, causing many large problems to go unaddressed. This thesis examines the research question: Are voter registration, electoral procedure and voter turnout in. the United States related, and if so, how? Improvements and modernizations in the system as a whole have been blocked by minority elements for various reasons. Increased voter participation would displace the power of those elements. Recent initiatives have been proposed at the state and federal levels to increase ease of access to the electoral system for the eligible non-voter. Legislation currently in effect, in addition to pending issues regarding electoral procedure, will be identified and analyzed. The results of this study are clear: administrative and institutional barriers to certain voters were erected around the turn of the century in order to preserve the power of controlling industrial interests. In the Northern states, the working class and poor immigrants threatened the power base of the captains of industry. The Southern agricultural iii


landowners sought to retain their advantages also; both used limitations on voters as a major tool in pursuing their agendas. It is clear that there is significant evidence to support the theory that increased voter registration would broaden voter turnout. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. recommend its publication. Jafl8 Everett iv


CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................. 1 Statement of the Problem ................................................................ 1 Overview of the ............................................................... 4 2. DEMOBILIZATION OF VOTERS ........................................................ 17 Legislative Measures .................................................................... 17 Voting and the Courts .................................................................... 25 Voter Qualifications ....................................................................... 32 3. VOTER REGISTRATION: ALTERNATIVE PROCEDURES .............. 36 Voting in Other Western Democracies .......................................... 37 Voting Procedures in Individual States ........................................ .45 Corrective Measures ..................................................................... 57 4. CURRENT ELECTION REFORM AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL AND IN THE STATE OF COLORAD0 ................................................ 62 Federal Reform ............................................................................. 62 Motor-Voter '92 .............................................................................. 63 State Registration Reform in Colorado .......................................... 71 Conclusion: Increased Registration Increased Turnout? ........... 76 BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................ BO v


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Statement of the Problem The basic problem concerning voter participation in the U.S. is that if a majority does not vote, the process is not a government "by the people," and the true spirit of a democratic-representative form of government is not realized. During -the 1988 presidential election, seventy-six million Americans did not vote. That is almost half of the voting-age population (Reed 1992). The causes of the current situation can be traced back nearly one hundred years. At the beginning of this century, just as working class people from other Western nations began to wield more influence after winning the franchise, changes to the American electoral system sharply reduced voting by the Northern, immigrant working class and basically eliminated voting by Southern Blacks and poor Whites. By World War I turnout rates had fallen to half the eligible electorate and despite certain increases and decreases, the rates have never recovered from their pre1896 levels (Campbell et al. 1960). The demobilization and partial disenfranchisement of working people in the U.S. in the early 1890's partially explains why no significant, labor based political party developed and why public policy and political culture remained narrowly individualistic and property-oriented. American capitalist development overshadowed the democratic process in the twentieth century, causing the U.S. to be non-democratic in many ways. 1


Piven anG-Cioward (1988) relate these assertions to the idea that additional working class voter participation would have curbed some of the. more extreme manifestations of American capitalist development in century. Additional political participation might have enabled the working class to prevent enactment of more of the policies that impeded union organization. The enfranchisement of Southern Blacks and poor Whites at the same time might have prevented the establishment of a one-party system which ruled the South for generations. The more influential labor voice would have also swayed leaders to promote more social programs oriented to the labor sector, such as those of the welfare capitalist states in northern Europe. Not all political theorists agree that the low level of voter participation is a problem. There are those who firmly believe that nonvoting isn't a problem at all. A non-vote is considered by them to be "tacit approval" of the politics of persons satisfied with the present conditions. No one has yet clearly defined reasons why the least well off constitute a majority of these "satisfied people" (Burnham 1982). Petrocik (1981) finds the opposite to be true. Often the non-voters are less supportive of the winner than the voters are. Still another position advocated by many conservative elements is that excessive participation limits the ability of government to function. Upset (1960) argues that the non-voter is often and as a result detrimental to the system. His view was shared by the turn-of-the century sentiment which sought to "improve" the standard of "quality" of the voter by reducing turn-out among the general population. 2


There are two contending schools of thought that seek to explain non-voting: One group of scholars explains non-voting in terms of institutional factors. Another group attributes non-participation to a person's age, sex, economic status and .over-all consciousness politically. This "school" consists of explanations relative to levels of education, income, age and basic skills. This leads to a more basic question, however: Do the poor and youthful abstain primarily because of the category they fall into, or are the institutions and the process responsible for a lack of turnout? Other modern democracies have significant numbers of poorer and younger persons of voting age, but the U.S. lags behind them in levels of voter participation.. Within the institutional school there are two opposing views on the primary conditions which affect electoral participation: One group of scholars attributes non-participation to the existence of legal barriers and the other group emphasizes changes in the American political parties and competition betWeen them. Are voter registration, electoral procedures and turnout in the U.S. related, and if so, how? This study examines the relationship between the electoral process and voter participation. Would improvement in the electoral process increase voter turnout? If voter turnout were to increase, what effect, if any, would additional participation have on the electoral process and our democratic process as a whole? The true issues affecting the majority of citizens will not be addressed until the majority of citizens participate, not only in the voting 3


process but also in other areas of civic responsibility as well. Special interests demand disproportionate amounts of resources and funds, leaving many crucial problems related to the Well being of the majority lacking the attention they deserve. Increased participation by the majority would force leaders to take the appropriate actions to attempt to solve the "majority" problems. Overview of the Literature The general issue of political participation is closely examined by Verba and Nye (1972). The theory of democracy relative to participation by a few, for a few, is at the heart of most debates in their work. They contend that when a few take part in decisions, there is little democracy. The more participation there is in decisions, the more democracy there is. Questions are also raised about participation in American political life on a normative basis. How much participation ought there to be? Who should participate? How should political leaders respond to the voice of the people? In general, how adequate is American democracy and how might it be improved? These are all valid questions when considering the status of a representative democracy. After considering the normative questions, those on the empirical side must also be addressed. How much participation is there in the U.S.? Who participates? How do citizens participate? How equally distributed among the citizenry are the opportunities to participate? What are the processes by which citizens come to participate? 4


All the factors lead, as emphasized by Verba and Nye {1972), to the basic question: What are the consequences of citizen participation? This question perhaps best sums up the focus of their research and comparative analysis. The stated intention of Verba and Nye's study is to attempt to deal with the broad questions surrounding participation in American political life. The idea is that participation in elections and referenda allows the citizenry to have a direct role in governing. Additional attention is directed by Verba and Nye to the importance of the functioning of the U.S. as a democratic polity rather than solely from the perspective of the individual citizen participant. These points lead to the basic premise that leaders become awqre of citizen preference and are motivated to act on them by the voters. Voter participation relative to overall political stability is a subject of considerable debate. S. M. Upset (1960) relates views on this subject in Political Man. Comparative analysis of the importance of full or near-full participation for purposes of legitimization of a government system is offered. The need by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes for mass participation in order to give an appearance of approval by the people is cited. Perceived political apathy is a danger to these types of systems and is discouraged or prevented when possible. Upset {1960) goes on to refer to Francis Wilson and earlier works by Swedish author Herbert Tingsten who argue that low participation does in fact indicate stability and general satisfaction. Mr. Tingsten points out that extremely high turnout in Germany and Austria occurred at the point when 5


democracy began to break down. During the 1920's political scientist W.B. Munro argued that increased political participation would threaten the workings of democracy as the "reformats" believed before him. The input from the underinformed was detrimental to the system by this "school." The work of V.O. Key, Jr. is used by Upset (1960) to support his contention that in a democratic system when the number of voters is low, the sociallyand economically-disadvantaged are under-represented in government. The combination of the low vote and relative lack of organization among lower status groups means that they will suffer from neglect by the politicians who will be more attentive to the better-organized and privileged participating constituents. Upset concludes that high rates of participation do not seem to adversely affect democracies such as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain or the Scandinavian republics of northern Europe. Factors such as increased organization, upgraded education systems and an over-all growth in understanding relative to one's government does appear to benefit the electoral process. As indicated above, the non-vote has in the past been seen as an indicator of political contentment. According to W. D. Burnham (1982), if that were so during better economic times following World War II, it is surely less so today. Burnham identified formal education as the principal factor in the sorting-out process politically. He contends that at the individual level it is more of a factor than occupation, income or other 6


common measures of social differentials. It is, however, directly related to the "have-more/have-less" relationship in a stratified class system. It is generally accepted that there are two major, competing perspectives which dominate the literature in the field of electoral behavior today: those who focus on individual-level factors, and those who cite institutional causes as being the principal reason for non-voting. Social psychological research tends to cover the reasons why individuals who are legally able to do so choose not to vote. Such persons, who are possibly not interested, disadvantaged, or uninformed are generally the focus of a social-psychological study. According to the rational-actor model, the non voter feels his or her vote will have no effect or that it doesn't count. Rational-actor analysis can be found in Arthur Hadley's comparison between persons who believe that positive action will produce results, and those who believe life is mostly left to chance; these, according to Hadley, are philosophies that affect the decision to vote. According to Hadley, response to this question powerfully discriminates between voters and non voters of a similar socio-economic or demographic group (Hadley 1978). Burnham points to social-psychological factors to support his theories. He contends that those with little or no education will have very low cognitive capacity and limited ability or willingness to respond to political stimuli on any significant level of issue conceptualization, much less ideology (Burnham 1982). Further analysis and theory regarding rational-actor models can be found in the works of Anthony Downs and later by V.O. Key, Jr. Key contends that the assumptions of this school are 7


essentially those of "neo-classical, capitalistic economics as translated into the realm of politics" (Key 1964, 71 ). They, the rational actors, are in a sense the polar opposite of most individualisUsocial-psychological. models "in that the individual is instead .a social atom, or 'monad', whose basic motivation is rational utility maximization" (Key 1964, 70). In summary of his views relative to citizen participation in the voting process, Burnham (1982, 9) relates "that citizens respond to politics both effectively and instrumentally, that is, both through social-psychological dispositions and through the efforts at rational pursuit of personal objectives through voting." Burnham tends to recognize the importance of the individual-level factors in non-voting, but institutional factors are seen as more tangible limitations of overall voter participation. The importance of individual-level factors in non-voting is clear. The focus of this study is, however, on the institutional factors that limit participation. Certain conditions have elements of both institutional and individual influences and they will be discussed where possible. The debate surrounding the institutional causes of non-voting is a clear one. The two major. schools are generally identified as those which emphasize changes in the party system and those which stress the importance of the legal and procedural aspects. According to Piven and Cloward (1988), the main issue becomes whether the decline of party competition and an increase in voter apathy, or the legal and procedural changes of the period, were to blame for radical increases in non-voting. Walter Burnham (1982), heavily influenced by earlier works by 8


Shattscheider, is the general advocate of the first school, the basic assumption being that the collapse of party competition in much of the countr;y in 1896, combined with increasingly oligarchical parties, resulted in drastic reductions in the voting ranks. It is clear that turn-of-the-century attacks on party organization termed "corrupt" resulted in a measurable degree of demobilization of much of the electorate. Paul Klepner (1987) focuses on this phenomenon in his examination of electoral policies between 1893 and 1928 in the U.S. He views the attempt at reducing party influence and control as being accomplished by "centralizing the process of decision-making and by insulating those who made the decisions from the impact of organized mass opinion" (Kiepner 1987, 170). Decision-makers began to enjoy increased influence which supported their narrowly-focused interests, vastly decreasing the potency of the voice of mass opinion. However, Klepner (1987, 164) does not argue that there is evidence to support the theory that a "class-conscious, corporate-capitalist elite successfully conspired to wrest control from their numerous opponents in the industrial proletariat." Rather, he indicates that these are indications that a diverse and often-contradictory set of motives was largely responsible. Some supporters of so-called reforms sought to streamline the process of public decision-making, favoring technocratic efficiency. Others sought to eliminate what they thought were actual obstacles to the operation of the democratic process. Most of the "reformers" of the period held the party system in contempt for perceived corrupt practices. Favoring the establishment of Administrative 9


Commissions, "reformers" around the turn of the century caused voters to doubt their ability to influence the decision-making process. Efforts by more conservative elements to curb what was termed "the excess of democracy" which started during the late 1800's--would It was not only the sheer numbers of voters which bothered these "reformers"; it was also the inclusion within the electorate of what were termed "unfit participants." Included among the "unfit" were uneducated immigrants, lower-class citizens and party supporters of the "machines." The zenith of the system of 1896, which typified a period of voter decline, was seen to be the 1920's by Klepner (1987), who viewed it as a decade noted for decision-making being particularly distant from citizen influence, with the possible exception of the enfranchisement of women. Researchers and analysts who favor the opposing viewpoint, or the "legal-institutional" theory, link turnout decline and unstable voting patterns to changes in laws and procedures. This view can be directly associated with the work of Claude (1970), Upset (1960), and Reitman and Davidson (1980), and others. These authors believe that electoral law and the machinery it runs determine electoral behavior. Piven and Cloward (1988) support Campbell et al. (1960) in The American Voter by using data from the 1950's which show that variations in registration and voting requirements were strongly associated with variances in state voting levels. Miller, in subsequent years, indicated that changes in voter_ participation were closely tied to residence requirements, registration, closing dates for registration, poll taxes and the ballot form itself. Following Miller, Kelly, 10


Hyres and Bowen published a study coming to the strong conclusion that "78 percent of the demographic variations between cities" could be explained by differences in the over -all percentage of citizens who were registered (Piven and Cloward 1968, 94). In the years following these works, Burnham has gradually granted greater attention and validity to the importance of personal voter registration requirements and the resulting drop in turnout. While grudgingly affording partial recognition of the significance of voter registration on turnout, Burnham adheres to the notion of "politics over rules." Were the new rules around the turn of the century the product of true democratic process or mobilized economic forces represented by a conservative political party, referred to as the "political vehicle of industrial capitalism" (Burnham 1974)? In the seminal work, The American Voter, Campbell, et al, 1960, the authors also provide an investigative view of election laws. The principal regulatory factors in the North are based on the required length of U.S. citizenship, residence requirements in the state, county or voting district, and the existence of literacy tests for voting. In the South the focus is on age, r_esidence requirement in the state and county, and poll tax requirements. These criteria are determined by Campbell and coauthors, through the recognition that existing statutes are evident, but enforcement uniformity from region to region is not as well defined. Campbell's work should be viewed in terms of its historical perspective, being focused on pre-1960 data. Other studies, such as one conducted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 1975, offer later data and some of the effects 11


of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reitman and Davidson (1980} outline the principal constitutional issues regarding a citizen's right to vote, along with amendments and provisions which were intended to promote expanded voter participation. When considering legal aspects of .a citizen's right to vote in the U.S., the Constitution and its interpretation by the courts is at the root of the laws. The power granted to legislatures to establish a set of voting guidelines for individual states and districts is checked by the judiciary. In their work, The Election Process, federal versus state authority over eligibility is a central question. Upon close examination of the Constitution, the authors point out that originally states seemed to possess "unquestioned authority" over both qualifications of persons selected to the Electoral College and election machinery within the states' borders. Citing Article I, Section 4 which grants state legislatures the power to prescribe the "times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives," the authors show the original intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution (Reitman and Davidson 1980, 1 }. Three major developments designed to temper the seemingly unrestricted power of the states are seen by Reitman and Davidson (1980) to be of particular significance. First, the adoption of constitutional amendments such as granting women the right to vote in 1920, congressional approval of the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-sixth Amendments ending the poll tax in federal elections, and the lowering of eligible age from twenty-one to eighteen were significant changes. Secondly, the reduction 12


of state authority in voting matters was reinforced by passage of major voting rights laws enacted by the Congress in 1965 and 1970, especially the literacy and registration provisions. These provisions did prove to drastically alter the shape of state .legislative power over voting. Thirdly, the Supreme Court was a significant contributor to establishing federal supremacy on voting matters through a number of rulings applying to numerous aspects of the franchise. The principal issues of age, citizenship, residency, disqualification of indigents and property ownership are the main qualification debates of importance in past rulings (Reitman and Davidson 1980, 2). Richard Claude (1970) stresses the strength of federalist powers versus states' rights as the basis of the voting rights debate. Supreme Court rulings and congressional legislation have arguably formed the present-day election laws and voting requirements into a unitary system. Claude (1970) refers to the establishment of women's suffrage, Black enfranchisement; abolition of poll taxes and reapportionment as firm examples of political change in the U.S. All of these reforms were blocked at various levels and were eventually advanced by bringing them before the Court. Much of the electoral process--where the right to vote is concerned was originally decided at the state level. Increased federal court involvement has brought about an increase in enfranchisement, especially. since the Civil War. The Supreme Court has not been alone in its attempt to curb unfair practices in the U.S. electoral system. The legislative branch at the federal 13


level has taken certain definite steps to expand voting rights in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During the mid-1970's the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1975) published a study entitled The Voting Rights Act: Ten Years Later. This study was undertaken with a dual purpose: first to .determine whether the conditions which led to the Act's original passage had been eradicated, and secondly; to determine whether the promise of full participation had been fulfilled for Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans and Native Americans in jurisdictions covered by the Act's special provisions. This government research outlines the Commission's evaluation of the status of minority voting rights in 1975 in the jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1970. The Commission indicated that the Voting Rights Act had contrrbuted significantly to the marked increase in all forms of minority political participation in the ten-year period following its enactment as law. Nevertheless, a detailed examination of events of the period following 1965 revealed that discrimination persisted in the electoral process. The promise of the Fifteenth Amendment and the potential of the Voting Rights Act had not been fully realized at the time the report was issued. Room for considerable improvement was indicated. Further modernization and general improvements in the U.S. electoral system have been proposed by a widely diverse group of scholars and authors. Burkhart, Eisenstein, Fleming and Kendrick -(1972) offer potential strategies for increasing electoral participation in the U.S. At the time this work, Strategies for Political Participation, was published in 1972, 14


the franchise had recently been expanded to include voters between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. The intention stated by the authors was to enlighten those who wished to participate vote on the local, state or even federal level. The need for more informative literature and academic courses was stressed in order to assist the potential future participant. Burkhart arid associates maintain that a well-informed electorate is essential if true, effective change or improvement is to come about. The major conclusion stressed above all is that .. productive political participation must be the result of intelligent and rational thinking .. (Burkhart et al. 1972, 79). They state that .. effective political action is less likely to be by novices.. (Burkhart et al. 1972, 79). The perception is that electoral systems or eras, generally caused by a major political concern or shift in economic climate, punctuate significant realignments of the voter Secession, the Civil War and Reconstruction are early examples; the Depression, new Deal and more recently, Viet Nam, are later ones. Voter participation figures heavily into the analysis of alignments in early analysis. Increased mobilization of voters can be achieved only by first identifying the factors which limit voter participation. While the potential reasons are numerous and not always agreed upon, it is possible to consider each one as a contributing factor and not place exclusive significance on any single area. It is, however, clear that institutional which limit voter participartion are identifiable and could be improved in order to increase voter turnout. 15


Increased citizen involvement in the electoral process in the U.S. can come only from improved accessibility to information and issues affecting the individuals, as well as any group they may be part of. After this situation is improved, the actyal act of voting must be continually modernized to make it a more simple and efficient process which better reflects the will of the majority. This study will explore these factors and attempt to provide possible available alternatives. Major changes in the constitutional level are unlikely and probably unnecessary when we consider election reform. But changes in statutory and procedural areas have in the past contributed to increased electoral participation. inside as wen as outside it. These are also issues directly related to my research project which I will address. Present-day issues such as campaign financing and term limitation proposals are major electoral concerns which could greatly affect future voter participation. U.S. campaign contributors would wield less influence, a fact that would lend more power to the voter and blocks of votes. The U.S. electoral system has more restrictions and less participation than a vast majority of the so-called "Western democracies." This ratio should be adjusted in order for America to be the democratic model that it is purported to be. The chapters that follow will focus on three areas: the systematic demobilization of voters in the U.S., alternative v9ting procedures in the various states as well as other democracies. and current attempts at both the state and federal levels to enact legislation intent on expanding voter roles and increasing voter participation. 16


CHAPTJ:R 2 DEMOBILIZATION OF VOTERS Legislative Measures In this chapter the legal and l"egislative aspects of restrictions placed on voters will be examined. Laws and regulations established at both federal and state levels did little to promote voter turnout; in many cases they clearly limited participation. In order to attempt to fully explain the present-day, low level of voter participation in the U.S., one must first examine the historical background of voter alignments in the principal regions of the country. Most scholars of this subject agree that the election of 1896 holds particular significance. The election of 1896 occurred in conjunction with (a} the institution of a series of legal and procedural "reforms" that reduced the ability of the parties to organize voters and (b) the outright disenfranchisement of much of the electorate. The elitist-oriented interests which achieved these reforms in 1896 went well beyond the factor of balloting. Legal and procedural restrictions on party organization and voter participation began well before 1896 and continued sometime thereafter. Only by the examination of changing patterns in party competition and the rules governing party organization and voter participation can the decline in voter turnout be adequately explained. Party competition virtually collapsed in much of the U.S. in 1896, with parties having lost their incentive to enlist voters and the people, their 17


incentive to vote. Before 1896 the major parties were more or less in equilibrium. The basic balance created at the end of the Civil War was that of Republican strength concentrated in the North and Democratic strength in the South and border areas, with neither region completely dominated by one party. The election of 1896 left the Democratic party severely weakened in the North and the Republican party almost destroyed in the South. After several years of agrarian and industrial conflict, the circumstances of 1896 mobilized Northern manufacturing interests to participate in electoral politics through the Republican Party more than ever before. Conversely, in the South the decade-long organizing efforts of Farmers' Alliances provoked commercial, landowning and financial elites to align themselves more closely with the region's traditional Democratic Party leaders. The election of 1896 is often referred to as the landslide that crushed the Populists and destroyed the Democratic Party in the North. How was the alignment which took place during the election of 1896. institutionalized? Why was the Republican Party able to maintain almost complete control of the North, and why was the Democratic Party able to maintain even more extensive domination of the South until the 1960's? Turnout increased significantly during some realigning years, but in the case of the 1890's realignment, there was a drastic decline (Burnham 1982, 8). From the 1880's to 1894 the Southern elite disenfranchised nearly all Blacks and poor Whites to prevent a Populist takeover of 18


Southern state governments. From 1896 to 1920 Northern elites disenfranchised immigrants and the poor, and virtually wiped out the Democratic Party there. But neither party emerged from the election of 1896 representing the interests. of lower-class citizens. Under these conditions, lower-status persons failed to become involved in the political system (Kiepner 1987, 148). Since neither of the two major parties represented the lower strata, why did a third party not then emerge? Scholars point to a series of procedural reforms as a major reason. For example, regulations referred to as "Antifusion Laws" were passed by the Republicans with the new Australian ballot system. Fusion is the running of a joint ticket between a major and a minor party. Fusion allowed for third-party viability, and the prohibition of fusion, accomplished with the Australian ballot reforms, was a consCious effort to make third-party votes meaningless (Argersinger 1980). The prohibition of fusion, often by the simple method of prohibiting the appearance of any name more than once on the ballot, or by counting each party's listing of the same candidate separately, successfully shaped the political arena not only by destroying the minor parties, but also by preventing the weaker major party (in the North, Democrats and South, Republicans) from being competitive. This was accomplished under the guise of procedural reform (Argersinger 1980). There is considerable debate as to the motives of those responsible for bringing about these so-called reforms. Some analysts have claimed that the changes were not attempts at disenfranchisement, but rather 19


unbiased attempts to reform the political system, often referred to as the "unintended effects theory." Others have. proposed that the intentions of those who changed the election Jaws were to make the lower class politically ineffective, often referred to as the "political repression theory" (Argersinger 1980, 296). Between the anti-fusion laws, the poll tax, the literacy test, alien disenfranchisement and the required yearly registration in the 1920's, there can be little doubt that the intent of those changing the rules was to reduce the number of voters. A primary cause of the decline in turnout at the turn of the century was deliberate disenfranchisement. Rule changes, which came as a result of the dominant political and economic conditions around the turn of the century, were made to support the agenda of the elites: (1) The Direct Primary Initiated in Mississippi in 1903 and Wisconsin in 1904, the direct primary became an essential substitute for the general election in areas where no effeCtive party competition had survived realignment or disenfranchisement. The direct primary spread to most states before the end of World War I, with the spirit of democratic participatory democracy clearly present. Its appeal was hard to resist, even in states where some degree of party competition had survived. Yet as V.O. Key, Jr. (1964,169) has shown, it had a variety of long-term effects on the integrity of party structure and almost certainly worked to reinforce single-party dominance. The primary was a new kind of .democratic instrument, replacing the durable collective 20


structures of party with ad hoc personal electoral choice. The elite insulating implications of this change are especially evident in the South, an extreme but not unique case . {2) Initiative. Referendum. Recall The enactment of these "direct democracy" innovations came from the same kinds of dissatisfactions with the working of traditional representative structures which fueled the introduction of the direct primary. The implications of these direct democracy measures are far reaching. They provide the. people with a direct means of expressing their will on a variety of issues. The importance of party affiliation is also lessened. {3) Direct Election of U.S. Senators This was a procedurally oriented reform which was undertaken with the hope that removing the choice of U.S. Senators from the state legislatures and placing it in the hands of the people would eliminate massive corruption by party organizations or the concentrated power of money on a legislative body and would make the Senate a more representative unit. This change appears to have had very limited effects. It consolidated the legitimacy of this non-apportioned second chamber and ensured its status as the most important second chamber in any Western legislature. It therefore bypassed, without any organized debate, the possibility of reducing the power of this unapportioned second body in the political process. The Senate clearly diluted the power of the states with larger populations, which were also the states with the highest percentages 21


of immigrants. In contrast, in Britain in the same period the powers of the second chamber, the House of Lords, was reduced. (4) Personal Registration Laws In the overwhelming majority of cases, these laws were initially enacted to apply to the populations of large cities. They reflected the absence of any system of keeping track of potential voters in anonymous urban environments and a hostility to urban machines as sources of corruption of the political process. It seems reasonable to suspect that one motivation of the lawmakers was to reduce as much as possible the impact of urban immigrants on statewide elections. One remarkable feature of such laws should be noted: they reflect an "individualist" legislative solution to the problem of identifying eligible voters rather than a state bureaucracy oriented solution. Everywhere else in the West, including Canada, it was accepted early on that it was the state's task to compile and update electoral registers. This assumed the existence of a bureaucracy for administering such enrollment laws or a general agreement that one should be created . Conversely, in the United States it was a traditional, unquestioned practice to require that an individual assume the burden of demonstrating his legal qualifications to vote. In the South, of course, this--along with a network of devices such as poll taxes and literacy tests--served a specific purpose: by giving electoral officials maximum discretion in determining the qualified voters, it kept undesirables, especially Blacks, away from the polls. But the universal character of such laws, no less than the nearly-complete absence 22


for many decades of any academic or other analysis of their effects on different classes of potential voters, suggests their compatibility with_ many other premises of American political culture as a whole. Perhaps the classic case _in this respect is Massachusetts, where since the turn of the century the poJice have compiled lists of residents for non-voting-related reasons and where lists of "legal voters" were compiled. It would be very easy to convert these lists into something similar to the Canadian electoral roll, compiled by the chief electoral officer and his assistants, but nothing of the sort has ever been done; standard personal registration is required for voting. Moreover, only within the past decade or so has serious professional analysis of these laws and their impact been undertaken. Altogether, the history of registration requirements in America is a particularly good example of the effects of uncontested hegemony and lack of organizable political alternatives on the shaping of the American political process. (5) Antipartisan Legislation A chief feature of the so-called "Progressive Era" activity was the effort to rationalize politics and bring it into harmony with procedural electoral democracy and with the needs of the "corporate ideal" in the management of complex social entitie-s. As Samuel Hays (1967) has demonstrated, this process. of adaptation was carried to its conclusion most fully in reshaping the structures of city governments. The urban reformers' ideal appears to have included the elimination of party, a shift in representational base from the ward level to at-large elections, and the 23


establishment and insulation from popular control of .. expert-dominated islands .. of decision-making. The ultimate purpose of these that eliminated partisan .. corruption .. and .. parocHialism" was to pave the way for urban statesmanship by adopting the corporate model as the ideal for urban government. In reshaping city governments, the .. corporatist" aspect of Progressivism is perhaps most decisive (Caro 197 4, 119 ). Basic to the corporate ideal is the replacement of politics by administration and of lateral conflicts and bargaining among relative equals by technocratic and hierarchical modes of conflict adjustment. The elimination, where possible, of the "political .. was a key component of the system of 1 Until very recently, it achieved its most complete success in that era. But antipartisan legislation was also fueled, particularly in the "colonial" areas of the country, by radical democratic rebellion against traditional party organizations. C. B. MacPherson (1953) has described a very similar process at work in Alberta. In "the colonies" economically dominated by a remote, but apparently all-powerful Metropole, both major parties take on the character of local agents for alien imperialism. What were the over-all effects of these role changes on electoral behavior? The parties were arguably weakened as a mobilization force, combined with the lack of "eligible-voter" rolls being compiled centrally. Second, these changes contributed to the growing exclusion of the lower classes from participation in the active electorate. By 1926 less than 31 percent of the national potential electorate voted for members of Congress (Wiebe 1980, 268). Finally by the 1920's, it appeared that the elite's 24


continuing 11Search for order .. had been successfully concluded; by then the insulation of .. the modernizing elite .. had apparently been perfected (Wiebe 1980, ). The rule changes discussed here helped the elite consolidate its hold over the American political system. Most of these rules remain today, testimony to the power of seemingly unchallenged control. Voting and the Courts The Federal courts have always played a dominant role in the determination of the limitations to be placed on the American electorate. Their influence has not always been positive, however. The courts interpreted t!le constitutional amendments and statutes growing out of the Civil War in a very narrow manner. During the period from 1870 to World War II, with few exceptions, the impact of these measures in protecting Black suffrage was all but negated (Claude 1970, 89-90). In effect the courts and the federal government served as a silent partner in the drive to disenfranchise Blacks. More recently, the courts in their rulings have on residency qualifications, poll tax applications, malapportionment, electoral intimidation, voter harassment, and the more subtle forms of procedural disenfranchisement proved a liberalizing force in the fight to assure every citizen the right to the franchise and the ability to exercise it. It is also true that the Congress, in particular, has begun to give the courts and the nation the type of legislation and the explicit clarification of long-assumed right$ needed to open the electorate. In this regard, the federal 25


government, with some backtracking, has proven to be an increasingly aggressive proponent of the unrestricted franchise. Much of the progress made in the extension and protection of voting rights during the. last century. especially before 1960, can be traced to the Supreme Court applications of the. principles embodied in the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Amendments, sec. 241 (Title 18) of the U.S. Code, and with time, the various civil rights acts passed by Congress. The significant role the court was destined to play became very clear. The Reconstructionists had attempted to guarantee the protection of Blacks, principally through three powerful constitutional amendments passed in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War: the thirteenth (1868), fourteenth (1869), and fifteenth (1870). The first of these abolished slavery. The second, and according to most observers, the most important, contained long and involved sections that attempted to accomplish many things, including the punishment and political exile of the pre-war, Southern White leadership. The most significant passage of the amendment provides that "no state shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens ... nor ... deprive any person ... of the equal protection of the laws." The Fifteenth Amendment protected the right to vote from state restriction because of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." An aroused Congress attempted to supplement the amendments through the Enforcement Act of 1870 (Carr 1947, App. 1). This statute prohibited the use of force, bribery, threats or intimidation of voters; 26


declared the use of power over one's occupation or employment as a sanction on one's vote illegal; and declared any one, two, or. more conspirators who went "upon public highways or upon the premises of another" with intent to interfere. with the other's constitutional liberties subject to criminal prosecution (Enforcement Act 1870). It appeared the matter had been settled (Congressional Globe, 41st Congress, 2nd Session 1870, 3612). The Supreme Court chose to take a highly restrictive view of the new amendments and statutes. In effect, it said any intimidation practiced by private individuals was beyond the federal government's power to influence. A major effo.rt was underway at the time to keep Blacks from the polls. A case, U.S. v. Reese (92 U.S. 214, 1876), involving such actions made its way to the Court in 1876. The Court ruled that the Civil War amendments applied only to the states and their immediate agents. They did not restrict private individuals. Furthermore, the Fifteenth Amendment, as interpreted by the Court, did not confer the right to vote on anyone. It simply granted exemption from arbitrary discrimination on racial grounds. This one decision severely limited the application of the new amendments, a move that would take the extensive work of generations of civil rights attorneys to reverse, and it subtly condoned or legitimized, without necessarily approving, the terror tactics then being used on Southern Blacks. In a related controversy the same year, U.S. v. Cruickshank (92 U.S. 542, 1876), the judges were called upon to rule in a case indicting one hundred people for the murder of sixty Blacks in a politically motivated riot. 27


The Court dismissed the Justice Bradley, speaking for his fellow justices, argued that congressional power to legislate the enforcement of voting rights did not extend to the passage of laws for the suppression of ordinary crime (murder) in the U.S .. As a measure of how effective the justices proved in defusing the congressional acts, it took ninety-two years before the Court's interpretation was substantially reversed. This reversal occurred in two 1966 cases: U.S. v. Price (383 U.S. 787, 1966) and U.S. v. Guest (383 U.S. 745, 1966). Central to the successful prosecution of both cases were sections 241 and 242 (Title 18) of the U.S. Code. Section 241, known as the "conspiracy law," made criminal actions of two or more private individuals who willfully conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise of any right gu-aranteed by the constitutional laws. of the U.S. Section 242 is targeted at the deprivation of constitutional and legal rights by state authorities acting under the "color of the law." In the Price case, three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, were driven by the county Sheriff to an isolated locale where they were killed by three sheriffs and fifteen private citizens. This case was later popularized by the film Mississippi Burning. The execution-style murders shocked the nation .. When local authorities refused to act, the federal government moved in and obtained convictions of the principals not for murder but for obstructing civil rights of another citizen. In the Guest case, a Black educator, Lemuel Penn, from Washington, D.C., was shot vigilante-style by persons on a highway outside Athens, Georgia, while returning home from army reserve 28


duty. The federal court overturned a state ruling and convicted six defendants under section five of the Fourteenth Amendment. This c.lause, an extremely significant one, was reintroduced in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and encompassed the right to vote among other things. The federal courts slowly .and laboriously wrestled with forces employed to deny Blacks the right to vote. The rulings in such cases as Williams v. Mississippi (1898) (Claude 1970), which established the constitutionality of devices such as the literacy requirement, were imbedded in legal precedents that proved difficult to overcome. For generations, the courts favored non-intervention and avoided an activist role in protecting voting Yet the seemingly crude legal devices used against Blacks, in particular, could not be totally ignored. Consequently, there emerged a series of confusing interpretations that allowed certain restrictions under specified conditions. The result was that each discriminatory practice had to be brought to the Court's attention and then fought out in repeated battles. Despite earlier rulings, South Carolina tried to argue that a Democratic primary was a type of election in a private club and thus had the right to determine its own membership (Rice v. Elmore, ( 82 F. Supp. 141 U.S. 686, 1948). The Federal Appeals Court ruled against the primary . South Carolina Democrats then proceeded to allow Blacks to vote in their primary, if, incredibly as it may seem, they swore an oath supporting racial segregation. The federal courts again voided the requirement (Claude 1970, 72). In 1960, Fayette County, Tennessee, was still trying to 29


reinstitutionalize a White primary. The legal resolution of this controversy finally appears to have put the matter to rest. The poll tax and literacy test also endured long periods of controversy. The poll tax ironically constituted another "reform," this time a quite legitimate one gone wrong. It was introduced in New Hampshire after the Revolution {1784) to overcome restrictions that permitted only taxpayers in each of the states, with the exception of Vermont, to vote. The poll tax was collected at the polling place on all who met the other qualifications to vote. Thus, it permitted them to participate in elections, although a concession to evolving democratic commitment, it also was soon abandoned for being too restrictive. This bright spot is overshadowed by attempts, through the polltax in the South, to disenfranchise Blacks. Although the poll tax was very successful, it was not universally accepted. Legal challenges to its validity reached the Supreme Court in both 1937 (Breedlove v. Shuttles, 302 U.S. 27, 1937) and 1951 {Butler v. Thompson, 97 F. Supp. 17 U.S. 937, 1951). In both cases challenges were denied. In Breedlove the justices decreed Georgia's poll tax a legitimate fundraising method and one that did not violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment on racial grounds n 1951, the Court said that Virginia's poll tax was not applied in a discriminatory manner. The Twenty-fourth Amendment, which prohibited poll taxes for national elections, was a clear attempt to exercise control at the federal level. To get around the new prohibition, Virginia amended its laws to 30


allow the substitution of a provision that required voters to file a certificate proving their residency six months prior to the federal election .or be subjected to the tax. The Supreme Court struck the provision down. Finally, in Harper v. Virginia Board of Education (383 U.S. 663, 1966), Justice Douglas spoke for the court when he declared that no "capricious or irrelevant" factor would be allowed to interfere with so fundamental a right as the vote. The poll tax was voided in local and state elections as a denial of "equal protection" under the Fourteenth Amendment (Claude 1970). Literacy tests, similar to the poll tax, do not on the face of it discriminate racially. Consequently, the courts upheld the device, but none of its derivatives (e.g., the grandfather clause, favored treatment for those previously registered). In Davis v. Schell (366 U.S. 933, 1949), theCourt demonstrated a willingness to void the provision if reasonably conclusive evidence of a differential application could be shown. Ten years later the Court reiterated that the test itself was not unconstitutional and that if it could not be shown to have been administered in a discriminatory manner, it would be upheld (Lassiter v. Northampton Board of Elections, 360 U.S. 45, 1959). The most significant impetus for change was to come from the Congress. Basing its interpretation on Title 1 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Supreme Court in 1965 struck down the sections of the Louisiana and Mississippi constitutions calling for the interpretation of various acts as a precondition of voting. The 1965 Voting Rights Act went even further. It automatically disallowed any device used to limit the electorate in the five 31


years preceding the statute's adoption. The legislation applied an ingenious "triggering clause" to any state or electoral subdivision in .which 50 percent of the voting-age population either was not registered or did not vote in the November 1964 presidential election (U.S. Congress, Senate Judiciary Committee 1965, 586). The Civil Rights Commission could also appoint federal examiners to areas found by the federal courts to have shown evidence of violation of Black voting rights. The Voting Rights Act, a drastic piece of legislation compared to its predecessors, was to prove extremely effective. When it was readopted in 1970, over the objections of the Nixon Administration, literacy tests were voided completely. Voter Qualifications Provisions in state constitutions requiring an individual to have lived in a state or community for a period of time before qualifying to vote are long..;standing. They go back to the colonial period, and they have been relatively non-controversial, having little relationship to the furor over the denial of voting rights to Blacks that captured most of the attention during the last 100 years. Yet as the nation became more mobile, residency standards became an imposing obstacle to a fulland open electorate. The State of Maryland argued, and the Supreme Court agreed (Drveding v. Devlin, 360 U.S. 291, 1965) that the constitutionally permissible objectives of a residency law are to minimize voting fraud by excluding non legitimate residents of an electoral subdivision from participating in elections and to promote a more enlightened electorate through the involvement of 32


people reasonably familiar withthe problems and resources of the community. Neither the arguments nor the Court's cooperation were _new or unusual. The Voting Rights Act of 1"970 was exceptional in this regard, however. Section 202 of the act voided all state residency requirements for presidential elections, arguing that they did not relate to any compelling state interest associated with the conduct of elections. This was to be a new standard in assessing residency qualifications. The Voting Rights Act did essentially two things: By establishing a set of standards that would have been difficult to meet, it placedthe burden of proof on the state, not the litigant. A second part of the act prohibited a state from closing registration more than ttlirty days before an election, a provision upheld by Oregon v. Mitchell (410 U.S. 119, 1971). The act was destined to have a far-reaching impact. An assistant professor of law at Vanderbilt University brought action against the State of Tennessee in an effort to extend the provisions of the 1970 legislation to state and local elections (Dunn v. Blumstein, 419 U.S. 292, 1972). The argument was simple: the State of Tennessee had violated Blumstein's right to vote under the "equal protection clause" of the Fourteenth Amendment by "durational residency" requirements that were not intended to further "a compelling state interest." The Supreme Court agreed (U.S. Supreme Court,. March 21, 1972). Judged by a survey conducted in 197 4 and previous efforts to test the Court's willingness to stand by landmark decisions, the-issue is not dead. Still, compared with the results of an assessment of residency standards made in 1968 (Clark 1970b, 44 ), remarkable progress had been 33


made in six short years. The gains are likely to be permanent. Unlike the literacy and poll tax provisions, there is little emotional sentiment contained in this issue. Although there is economic incentive for states to withhold citizenship status from short-term residents (reduced tuition at public universities, eligibility for welfare benefits) this problem can be handled by other means. Also, the federal courts and the Congress appear allied with the overwhelming majority for an accessible, minimally restricted vote. The views opinions in relation to the history of suffrage restrictions are very diverse. For some they were justified. For others, they indicated self-interest raised to the level of real democratic theory. Yet for others tl:ley tended to represent good intent gone bad. Many were brought over from England with little thought given to their effects. Others were devised to meet specific problems and were defended as a way to produce an independent, better informed, qualitatively superior electorate. Once established, they became extraordinarily hard to dislodge as the long fights over Black and female suffrage, the vote for eighteen-year-aids, and residency limitations continually demonstrated. The struggle for women's suffrage was indeed a significant one. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, organizationssuch as the National Women's Suffrage Association (NWSA) strongly argued that women had a constitutional right to vote. As with many other aspects of voting procedures and laws, a state-by-state approach to the issue was pursued. Progress was slow; suffrage proponents were seen as radical, and initially a large female constituency failed to materialize. A slightly 34


more conservative tone was adopted and led to some early suffrage victories in Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1.893), Idaho (1896), and Utah (1896). No other states would follow 1910 (Kraditor 1965). Opposition in the legislature, especially the Senate, continued to block the passage of a women's suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution until the early part of this century. A concentrated effort in defeating opponents in the Senate at.the polls succeeded in removing two key senators in 1918, Weeks of Massachusetts and Salisbury of Delaware, paving the way for passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Meeting in a special session called by President Wilson in the spring of 1919, the House of Representatives and then the Senate passed the suffrage amendment. Ratification by the necessary thirty-six states was completed in 1920, and the first national election in which women could vote occurred in November of that year The franchise was expanded dramatically with the passage of one law. Many, if not most, of the exclusionary devices employed to maintain a limited list of the electorate are elitist. Rather than accommodating the greatest number of people in an attempt for a truly democratic and representative electorate, they stifle or eliminate from the franchise unwelcome groups or protect economic and political The ultimate object should be the broadest electorate possible (Schattscheider 1956, 197). The conduct of reasonably open and fraud-free elections should be approached as an administrative problem with the search for solutions approached from a practical standpoint. 35


cHAPTER3 VOTER REGISTRATION : ALTERNATIVE PROCEDURES There are many answers to what is essentially a core problem for a democratic country. How to identify members of the electorate and certify them to vote in such a manner that both a broad representation is achieved and the integrity of the electoral process is maintained? Each nation has addressed the problem in a different manner. Some results are dramatic and attract attention. same are truly impressive: participation levels as high as 90 percent or better. The procedures utilized in order to achieve high rates of voter participation elsewhere should be as potential models for change in the U.S. All is not necessarily what it seems, however. When the U.S. averaged high turnouts in the early and mid-nineteenth century, the qualified electorate in some cases was restricted to as little as one-tenth of the adult population, and in others, widespread corruption helped to contribute to inflated turnout figures. Many important developments occurred in electoral procedure during the period following World War II, both in the U.S. and in other Western democratic nations. Numerous innovative improvements in the voting process, developed in the post-war period, remain models today. The American civil rights movements of the 1960's inspired the legislation which followed in the late 1960's and early 1970's at the state level. These state 36


procedures eventually became the model elements of current federal reform which will be discussed in Chapter 4. Registration systems evolve within countries in response to national traditions. Some procedures developed in other countries are not compatible with American democra_tic values and in some instances may actually include harmful practices. Other enrollment processes, conversely, may include welcome features, many not entirely foreign to the American experience at the state and community levels. In this section I will review selected examples of registration practices in other nations and several states and then in conclusion focus attention on the most promising aspects of these procedures which could improve U.S. procedure and increase voter participation. Voting in Other Western Democracies Voter turnout in other democracies regularly exceeds that of the United States by significant margins. The National Municipal League (Carlson 197 4, 2) estimated average turnout for parliamentary elections during the post-World War II period in France and Great Britain to be 80 percent; West Germany, 86 percent; Austria, 95 percent, and Canada, 76 percent. In a study published three years later, the participation figures for six other democratic nations during the period 1965 to 1969 ranged between a low of 75 percent in Ireland to a high of just under 90 percent in Denmark and Sweden, with an average turnout of 85 percent (Freedom to Vote Task Force, 1970). 37


Some argue that these nations with their more liberalized election procedures and proven records of success might present a model from which the U.S. could profit. A selective borrowing of some features (many . of which are already developed on a more limited basis in individual states) of other systems might benefit turnout. Other aspects of the systems, such as mandatory vote with legal penalties for noncompliance and enrollment lists administered by legal authorities, may be viewed as incompatible with a democratic system based on free will and individual discretion. The electoral practices exercised in any other nation reflect territorial problems, statutory demands, party systems, and national traditions. All combined determine a country's performance of its democratic functions. An open mind, combined with a degree of should be used when we consider enrolrment practices (National Municipal League, 1970). Switzerland For some, the Swiss epitomize a democratic citizenry. Their reputation is based largely on their propensity for placing virtually all major issues before the voters in plebiscite form. A Swiss voter can go to the polls four or five times a year. Such a democratic emphasis has its cost. Consistent interest in elections and a high turnout are difficult to maintain. Participation rates vary between 40 and 50 percent on referenda-type issues and nearly 60 percent for elections to office. Polls are kept open on weekends, and voters can deposit ballots sent to them by mail along with election information in any of a series of places on election day. Each canton (or district) has its own enrolling practices although the similarities 38


among them are strong. Zurich requires registration within eight days of moving to the area on penalty of a fine. "Citizenship .. is defined in terms of locality so that new residents must both have their identity papers re-issued by local authorities and wait two years before qualifying for the franchise. Foreigners must remain for years before they are accepted as voters. Applications are checked against a file kept in a person's former place of residence to ensure a respectable past record. The Swiss passion for order results in a penchant for national registrations for various civic obligations, although in the case of voting, citizens have the right to check their. records two weeks before an election. Few actually do {Carlson 1974). West Germany The former Federal Republic of Germany automatically enrolled anyone who reached the age of twenty-one who was both a resident and a citizen. However, when registrants moved, they were required under penalty of a fine. to inform in writing officials of the city they were leaving and those in the city to which they were moving. Copies of this form, filled out in triplicate, were sent to the registration office, the election center, and the police. Citizens notified that they have been excluded from the election rolls could appeal {Carlson 197 4 ). Austria With the mean voter participation rate of 96 percent between 1951 and 1965, Austria stands at or very near the pinnacle of this aspect of democratic performance. The country's constitutional provisions on enrollment explain why. A 1929 amendment to the constitution, suspended 39


by the turmoil of the 1930's and German occupation from 1938 to 1945, confers the vote on all citizens at least nineteen years of age and mandates that only federal law can provide the exceptions to nonparticipation. Residents must file the appropriate forms with the local authorities. Their names are then placed on the lists which are revised annually. A failure to report a change of address is punishable by fine or two weeks imprisonment (National Municipal League 1970). France In France an administrative commission composed of the mayor, one delegate appointed by the prefect, and another by the municipal council revises the enrollment lists annually. Any appeals of its decisions go to a committee consisting of the original commission plus two add.itional municipal councilmen. All residents qualify for enrollment who are twenty one years of age or who have lived in the commune, or district, for six months or who have been on a list to pay direct taxes for five years (National Municipal League 1970). Sweden Ninety-nine percent of Swedes are registered, and again a. highly centralized enrollment system is the key. A National Tax Board retains authority for population registration, taxation and the conduct of elections. In turn, the country's twenty-four counties and the City of Stockholm keep computerized files on individuals which the government uses for, among other things, generating voting lists. By law, individuals who move must notify authorities in their area within fourteen days or be subject to a fine. The 25,000 parishes of the Lutheran State Church function as adjuncts of 40


the state by registering and reporting to the government births, deaths, marriages and shifts in population. The system is so effective that the centralized county files on individuals are updated weekly. A person's file can be transferred expeditiously to a new jurisdiction without difficulty. Lists are printed annually although, for special referenda or vacated seats, the Swedes vote every three years. Persons can cast a ballot either at their normal polling place or at the post. office. Special cards identifying voters as well as information on polling hours and the election are sent to eligible citizens. In their quest for precision, Swedish authorities also send those ineligible to vote a prevention card that notifies them of their status. Ill or disabled persons can vote through the equivalent of an American absentee ballot if two people will attest to their incapacity at the their vote is cast (Carlson 1974). Great Britain The British have had annual registration since 1872. The system, while under the general authority of the Home Office, is far more decentralized than the Swedish system and allows for individual discretion in the means used to register potential voters. It is also quite successful: 93 percent of the eligible voting-age population is believed enrolled (National Municipal League 1970). A town clerk who knows the area is appointed by the local governing council and has responsibility for drawing up voter lists. He ensures that a registration form is delivered, by mail or in person, to every household. Those not returning the original form receive another through the mail or in a door-to-door canvassing with a warning that failure to comply can result in a fine as well as disenfranchisement. The 41


process begins in August or September. In October the form clerk begins to prepare the revised list which is published in November. A short period of over two weeks is allowed for formal appeals. If a case is serious enough, a hearing is granted, although an unsatisfactory decision can be taken by an individual to the courts. The final a":'lended voter lists are published by midFebruary, and the process begins again in late summer. Belgium The registration system in Belgium, similar to that of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, is noteworthy for the "obligatory" nature of vote provisions found in its constitution and also in the social and legal pressures exerted to enforce participation: A list is made of those who do not vote in Belgium in the eight days after an election by the police superintendent under supervision by the Justice of the Peace. The reasons for not participating are submitted by individuals to the Justice of the Peace, who in consultation with the police or the State's Attorney can accept them or penalize the non voters by a reprimand or a minimal fine for the first failure which increases with additional offenses. For a third time the non-voter's name is posted on a list outside of the City Hall; a fourth offense results in removal from voting lists for ten years. During this decade of voter ostracism, the individual cannot receive any appointment, promotion or award of distinction from any government agency. Canada The Canadian system bears serious consideration. Its enrollment practices are considerably more thorough thar:t the American procedures and at least as free from fraud. The problems that election officials face 42


are, if anything, more formidable than those of their American neighbors. A relatively small population is scattered over a vast geographical area. The basic ideas in Canadian enrollment have been long used in a number of states and localities in the United States. In Canada, a chief electoral officer responsible to the parliament is appointed to supervise elections. In turn, a "Returning Officer" is appointed to oversee the federal elections in each of the 264 parliamentary districts. Each parliamentary district (similar to Congressional districts in the U.S.) is subdivided into polling districts with an average of 250 voters per district. Two enumerators, one by each of the candidates who received the highest number of votes in the district's parliamentary election, are appointed for each urban polling district with populations greater than 5,000. The enumerators receive a modest base pay plus eleven cents for every name on the registration lists. In the seventh week before the election, the enumerators, acting as a team, begin a door-to-door canvass to register each eligible voter (basically those over eighteen years of age and holding Canadian citizenship). If no one is at home, the enumerators leave a card giving a telephone number where they can be reached and/or the date of their next canvass. In the sixth week the enumerators present their lists to the returning officer, who compiles a complete enrollment for the district and by the fourth week has printed copies made available to the political parties and voters. These forms also contain information about how challenges to the list will be heard or revisions in them can be made. The procedures employed in rural districts are close to those used in urban districts but a little less elaborate. There is only one enumerator and 43


a county court judge serves as the revising officer in deciding the changes needed. Nine of the ten provinces (British Columbia is the exception) also employ the door-to-door canvass in their provincial elections, a system patterned after enrollment procedures. Significantly, the voting lists are used for one election (to. serve the purpose of identifying the eligible electorate and preventing fraud) and then destroyed. The process begins again when a new election is to be held. There is no centralized national file made from the information obtained from the canvasses and stored in a computerized national bank, a practice that is offensive to many civil libertarians and one that is open to substantial abuse. The Canadian system is not as complex as this observation might make it appear. Its chief weakness appears to be a failure to provide for absentee voting, a .minor problem and relatively easy to rectify. One of the key factors that many of these procedural examples have in common is the uniformity of methods used in order to form a network of organized effort to register as many citizens as possible. One of the most obvious shortcomings in the U.S. over the last century has been the absence of debate on election laws in comparative terms. That is to say, to see what works elsewhere and implement adaptations here in the U.S. where possible. It is clear that most Western nations that conduct open elections, with the exception of the U;S., provide in one form or another the bureaucratic instrumentalities of the state to fulfill the legal and operational responsibility for compiling and updating electoral registers. .In the next section, the various methods used by individual state governments during 44


the period prior to the present day "motor-voter"-oriented approach can be seen as direct contributors to the low levels of participation. Voting Procedures in Individual States Perhaps the most striking observation concerning voter turnout is the extraordinary divergence among the states in the levels of participation (Table 3.1 ). Some states enjoy very high levels of participation, others quite low. The patterns observed in any one election tend to be consistent for the majority of the states over time. If one goes back to any specific national election in the last forty years, the same groupings of states usually do extraordinarily well or very poorly. The states that fall at the lowest end of the scale for the period 1952 to 1972 as shown below need no extended discussion. They are without exception Southern states with all the problems of electoral participation discussed earlier. Perhaps of even greater significance are the states ranking highest in voter participation for the same two decades. 45


Table 3.1 Mean Voter Turnout for the Highest and Lowest Deciles of States for Presidential Elections, 1952-1972 High Participation States Low Participation States State Percent Turnout State Percent Turnout Utah 77.2 Mississippi 33.5 Idaho 74.6 South Carolina 35.0 South Dakota 72.1 Alabama 35.8 New Hampshire 73.4 Georgia 36.15 Connecticut 73.25 Virginia 39.1 West Virginia 73.0 Texas 44.1 Minnesota 72.5 Arkansas 44.7 Iowa 77.2 Louisiana 44.8 North Dakota 74.6 Tennessee 48.2 Indiana 71.0 North Carolina 50.4 Delaware 71.8 Florida 50.45 Source: (Project Vote, National Office) Project Vote Publications, Washington, D.C. 1974 46


It is clear that socio-economic conditions, two-party competitiveness, the quality of the candidates put forth by the parties, an area's sense of civic duty (apparently very strong, for example, among Mormons in Utah and Idaho), and a state's political traditions all serve to reinforce a belief in. the importance of voting. Of some significance also are the electoral procedures that serve to facilitate or prevent extensive participation. Many states have pioneered in the use of simplified voting practices, although their efforts have received little national attention. South Carolina, for example, has a modernized system of centralizing voter enrollment through computerized lists (Thornton & Bethsor 1969, 190). The process is well managed and provides accurate, inexpensive registration lists to its local officials as needed. Many other localities have systems similar to South Carolina's (or possibly may even surpass it) in efficiency and workability. There are problems with using such an approach, however. The registers, much like commercial subscription lists, may be made available to political parties or candidates, a fact which some voters feel infringes on their right to privacy. In states with income taxes, the lists may be used to verify income tax information, a process many fear because it may invite government inspection and potential retribution against individuals enrolled in one party seeking government contracts or aid, or the lists may be sold to commercial businesses seeking to expand mailing lists. The last possibility may be justified in an effort to recoup some of the costs of the registration system (Smolka 1973, 47). 47


The State of Oregon admirably illustrates the willingness of the former frontier areas to experiment with new forms of registration designed to expand democratic participation. As the nation stretched beyond the tradition-bound east from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio in the early days through the plains states to the far west, a radical democratic spirit prevailed that has continued in many ways until today. Oregon ranks high in both simplified qualifications for registration (among the most lenient in the nation) and procedures for actually identifying and enrolling prospective voters. The latter is possibly the more serious of contemporary challenges. Although state election officials assert disappointment at their supposedly poor showing,. over so percent of the eligible voting-age population is registered, and turnout approaches 70 percent of the potential vote. (U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearings on Voter Registration 1972, 77). The difficulty in Oregon as elsewhere is in enrolling those groups which chronically remain outside the electorate: 84 percent of those with annual incomes over $15,000 are registered, compared with 53 percent of those with incomes below $3,000. Oregon offers no exception to the pattern (U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearings on Voter Registration 1972, 79). As the Oregon Secretary of State told a Congressional Committee, his state believes that registration opportunities should be easily accessible and have a simple format. The state seems to substantiate its claims. It is one of only sixteen states with a deputy registrar provision, a system in which additional help is deputized to seek out new enrollees. Some of the short-term registrars are employees of the County Clerk's office, the agency charged with administering the act. Most are volunteers from such groups 48


as the AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters, both political parties, the Junior Chamber of Commerce and other civic-minded organizations. Overall, approximately 2,000 deputy registrars are added for elections, and in one county for which the figures could be checked, there was a registrar for approximately every 350 voters {high even by Canadian standards). These deputies enroll new voters in schools, supermarkets, and fire .stations, housing projects, trailer parks, department stores, county and state fairs and most any place where there is a high volume of citizen traffic. In terms of simplicity, application forms are easy to fill out with no long or embarrassing questions to be supplied by the applicant {U.S. Congress, Senate 1972, 82). Residency requirements are minimal and the County Clerk's offices are open for registration daily, including Saturdays, immediately before the close of the enrollment period. A person who moves into the state on the Monday prior to the presidential election can vote the following day for president through very accommodating procedures designed by the .state. Finally, Oregon even mails a packet of information on the election to enrolled voters before the election day. Idaho is another state with some effective approaches. Its methods for researching potential registrants are commendable as is apparent in the enrollment totals 91 percent in 1968 and 83 percent in 1972 of the eligible voting-age population and turnouts of 73 percent in 1968 and 65 percent in 1972 {U.S. Congress, Senate 1972, 83). The real distinguishing characteristics of the enrollment process are simplicity, clarity of responsibility, decentralization, accessibility of registration opportunities, and the aggressive search for those who are not registered. The 49


responsibility for registration rests with the County Clerk, who appoints an official registrar for every precinct in the county by March first of an election year. }he County Commissioner has. the option of assigning additional . deputy registrars to any precinct in which they appear needed, and at least one registrar must be assigned to each unincorporated area and each village. The registrars are .paid on a wage scale that is not to exceed fifty cents per new enrollee. Those designated registrars must post in a minimum of three public locations during March, the times and locations in which they enroll voters. The registration period remains open in the precinct until ten days before the election day and the County Clerk's office, until two days before the election day. On the eve of the election, the office stays open until eight o'clock. New housing developments or mobile .home parks can seek the appointment of a registrar specifically for their areas. Those absent from a county have until the seventh day before an election to request enrollment. It is obvious that enrollment is taken seriously, and every attempt is made to make it as convenient as possible for those who qualify. The State of Washington has relatively strict eligibility requirements for the franchise, but its attempts to reach electors demonstrate a degree of imagination. The state provides mobile registration units in some localities during the last fifteen days of the enrollment period, additional offices on the precinct level are opened, door-to-door canvasses by deputy registrars (paid twenty cents for each person enrolled) are encouraged, and in 1973 the legislature passed a law mandating the county auditors to appoint as deputy registrars political party precinct committee members if they so 50


requested. It would appear in the best interests of the committee members to enlist as many of their own supporters as possible. The state's registration fluctuated between 83 and 90 percent and its participation rate, between 71 and 62 percent for the 1972 and 1968 elections, re-spectively (Ladd 1982, 117). A case study of the effectiveness of door-to-door campaigns was launched in 1970 on Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island. Teams of registrars were appointed from Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Team leaders received $2.50 per hour while the other members were paid $1.60 per hour plus twenty-five cents for each valid applicant. The teams, working most evenings, went house-to-house in each district. In an off-year election they managed to increase voter enrollment 50 percent over t_hat of 1968. Of all methods, this type of canvassing appears to be the most effective in increasing numbers of registered citizens (Ladd 1982, 91 ). California is notable for the administrative flexibility of its system. As with most other things, California has a little bit of everything. The state's election code authorizes deputy registrars (paid twenty-five cents per affidavit), door-to-door canvassing, and mobile registration units with sound equipment that tour neighborhoods, notifying citizens of the dates, times, and places for enrolling. Registration can be canceled for failure to vote in the previous election, an unnecessarily stiff penalty. But disqualified registrants have to be notified, and if they return an affidavit to the county clerk affirming that they still reside at the same location, their rights are automatically restored (Constantini & Hawley 1969, 49). 51


The enrollment procedures used by these states do not begin to exhaust the list of potential approaches to voter registration experimented with by varying jurisdictions. Nonetheless, the overall picture is negative. Since the states are primarily concerned with protecting the ballot from any unauthorized use, they all too often place cumbersome and unnecessary obstacles in the path of those who wish to vote, barriers that in reality have little to do with the exercise of the franchise. At least one state, North Dakota, has few registration procedures and seems to do very well. It is less well known that many midwestern states permit their electoral jurisdictions to enforce many, some, or no registration or rescind those that exist. Four-fifths of the land area of Missouri, for example, is not subject to registration requirements although the prif1cipal urban areas are. Turnout in non-registration-regulated areas averages, not surprisingly, ten to twelve points above those with them. A ten-percentage point difference existed between levels of participation in registration and non-registration counties (excluding Philadelphia in Pennsylvania) during presidential elections in the 1930's. For the same category of elections in Ohio for the period 1948 to 1960, turnout averaged three percentage points more for counties with partial requirements and eight points more for those with no qualifications compared to those with a full set of restrictions (Claude 1970). For 1960 alone, the mean difference between counties with a complete list of qualifications and those with none was twelve percentage points. It is indeed questionable how long courts can tolerate such blatant inequities in the distribution of the franchise (Oregon v. Mitchell 1970, U.S. Supreme Court). 52


Many registration procedures were introduced by rurally dominated, nativist-oriented state legislatures to penalize the urban areas. Until 1957, for example, New York's legislature required (1) that in cities with populations over a certain size (a provision only the City of New York fulfilled), individuals register personally at enrolling stations, and (2) that they enroll prior to each election in order to maintain eligibility. Undoubtedly, such restrictions had the desired effect of limiting participation. Today they appear mainly as holdovers from long-forgotten political machine wars of the nineteenth century. In fact, as Oregon's Secretary of State has argued, the present elaborate system may actually place a greater burden on the prospective rural voter (U.S. Congress, Senate, Hearings on Voter Registration 1972, 79). Whatever the relative degree of inconvenience, the system is mostly a negative one. Frustrated by overlapping, expensive and inefficient attempts to register new voters in the 1970 election period, Tucson, for example, operated with "the existence of only one registration site, ... insufficient voluntary registrars to register outlying populations--including Indians on reservations, registration limited to working hours, partisan avoidance of certain groups, misinformation which hindered student registration" (U.S. Congress,. Senate, Subcommittee on Census and Statistics, 1972, 401 ). These problems are all too familiar to most veterans of registration campaigns (U.S. Government General Accounting Office 197 4, 399). The youth registration coordinator of Young Democrats established a national network of state representatives (not confined to youth) in 1971 to examine what went wrong. These new entrants to the registration field found an 53


incredible catalog of administrative and legal obstacles to registration. The results of the survey appear in Table 3.2. A quaintness as well as an arbitrariness characterizes this rundown of deficiencies. The registrar of Florida's fourth largest county refused to appoint a special registrar for mobile units because-so he is reported to have said--citizens should have come to the courthouse to observe firsthand government in action. Montana. allowed two party appointments per precinct, but these two have full power to designate all supplemental help, and no work could be done without their presence. An inactive precinct registrar who refused to step down could effectively nullify the entire process. More generally, thirty-five states did not offer mobile registration, twenty-seven restricted or did not provide for the appoif1tment of deputy registrars, twenty-four reported indifference or worse from election officials in registration efforts, another thirteen experienced a politically biased administration of their trusts, and seventeen of the forty-seven states for which data could be collected found the hours for registration too restrictive (U.S. Congress, Subcommittee on Census and Statistics 1972, 400}. The overall message bears repeating for emphasis: present-day registration procedures. are non-standardized, arbitrary, broadly discriminatory and antiquated. We now arrive at the question: what can be done about them? In the previous section a discussion of the courts' role was covered briefly. Other issues in the field require further examination. 54


Table 3.2 Obstacles to Registration in the States Lack of Lack of Sufficient Lack of Political Lack of Mobile Number of Official Preference State Deputies Registration Hours Distance Cooperation Shown Alabama X X Alaska X Arizona X X X Arkansas X X California xa X Colorado X X Connecticut xb X X X Delaware X X X X X District of X X Columbia Florida xc X X X X X Hawaii ldahoe X X Illinois X X Indiana X X Iowa X X X X Kansas X X X Kentucky X X Louisiana X Maine X X X Maryland X X X x' Massachusetts X xg Michigan xb X Minnesota X X Mississippi X X X X xh Missouri X Montana xa xa xt X Nebraska x' x' X X Nevada x' X New Hampshire xb X New Jersey X X New Mexico xk xk New York North Carolina xal xam X X North Dakota Ohio X X X Oklahoma Oregon X X xe Pennsylvania X Rhode Island X X X South Carolina X X X South Dakota X X X Tennessee X X Texas Utah X X Vermont X Virginia X X X X Washington X West Virginia X X Wisconsin X X X X Wyoming X Total 27 35 17 4 24 13 55


Table 3.2, continued aEase varies by county. bNeed cross-deputization to register persons living in city and working in another. of hours often insufficient, as workers may be fatigued and go straight home. Clack of absentee registration. dstate ombudsmen help solve citizen problems. eoifficulty in disseminating registration information: fMisinformed registrars on student residence, age, tax exemptions by parents as requirement, etc. gPrimarily relating to college students. hparticularly in registering blacks. lin small counties. lvolunteer registrars allowed, but obtaining volunteer time is insufficient. kvartes by county; New York City excellent. lstudent residency definition still a problem. mEither in state/local registration laws or in administrative Implementation. Source: Subcommittee on Census & Statistics, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, U.S. House of Representatives The Concept of National Voter Registration Washington, DCJU.S. Government Printing Office 1974 pp 401-402 56


Corrective Measures During the late 1960's and the 1970's, a little-noticed movement was undertaken to attempt to amend some of the more flagrant registration abuses. In large part, it was an outgrowth of the civil rights movement in the South and the awareness the effectiveness of the instrument of registration in depressing voter participation. Aware of the inequities of the enrolling system, President John F. Kennedy appointed a Commission on Registration and Voting Participation in 1963, chaired by the former Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Richard Scammon. The Commission's report appeared to have little impact. In part, the problem was a matter of timing. The Commission delivered its recommendations to the White House on November 26, several after the President's assassination and at a time when the nation's attention focused on more immediate problems. Contributing to the problem was the nature of the proposals advanced and the conservative strategy adopted for their implementation. The Commission did review such approaches as door-to-door canvassing, deputy registrars, and precinct and mobile registration. The majority of its recommendations, however, centered on disconnected improvements in local practices--well-equipped polling places, longer hours, accessible registration centers, shorter duration residency requirements, better absentee voting provisions, the sanctity of election lists along with the abolition of the poll tax and literacy requirements. The report did not propose any legislation or offer a standardized model against which each state's laws could be measured. Rather, the Commission chose an essentially advisory role, confining itself to urging the diverse results of 57


state and local interests to adopt the type of proposals it advocated. This was an extraordinarily difficult way to achieve anything with lasting results. During the sixties and early seventies the move to modernize picked up momentum with the drive for the 18-year-old vote and the general effort (partially associated with the events surrounding the Democratic National Convention of 1968) to open electoral processes. Groups such as Common Cause, The League of Women Voters, the National Municipal League, the National Urban League, Frontlash, the Student Vote and other civic organizations became increasingly concerned with the problem and began to explore and marshal support for improvements of various kinds. This loose coalition reinforced by a heightened public awareness began to score some significant successes: the passage of the 1970 Voting Rights A9t, the 1971 enactment of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment enfranchising eighteen year-aids, the introduction and eventual passage in the U.S. Senate (and years later in the House) of a postcard registration system, the creation of the short-lived Office of Federal Elections in the General Accounting Office to monitor progress in the states and the Congress and to investigate and publicize varying types of basically mechanical refinements in election procedures and the improvement in the administration of registration processes in a number of states. The most notable change on the state level resulted from the Supreme Court decision of March 21, 1972, Dunn v. Blumstein, that extended the ban on excessively long residency in federal elections as contained in the Voting Rights Act of 1970 to other elections. The Supreme Court declared lengthy residency requirements for voting in 58


state and local elections unconstitutional and suggested (but did not demand) a 30-day period as the standard (Marston v. Mandt, U.S. Supreme Court, 1973). The impact of this one decision, supported by Congressional legislation in the 1970 Voting Rights Act, has been enormous. Table 3.3 presents the residency requirements in effect in 1973. Even allowing for the numerous exceptions and restrictive applications, the difference between, for example, 1968 and 197 4, when states were forced to comply with an aggressive new mood on such matters, is remarkable. The differences serve as a reminder of what can be accomplished in a very short period of time if government bodies are forced to act. For the 1968 presidential election, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia mandated that a person be a resident for one year before. qualifying to vote; fifteen demanded a six-month residency, although Connecticut applied the provisions in cities only, and only two-New York and Pennsylvania--permitted a then liberal ninety-day period. Thirty-five states legislated county residence restrictions of from one to six months. Four states in addition to Connecticut had city or town minimal residencies of six months and two cities had limits of three months. By 1972, thirty-one states and the District of Columbia had no residency requirements; sixteen applied the Supreme Court suggestion of a thirty-day grace period, and Kansas required only twenty days (Table 3.3). Only two of the fifty exceeded the Court's rule-of-thumb and these--Florida with sixty days and Michigan with forty-five--are modest by previous standards. 59


Table 3.3 State Residency Qualifications for Voting, 1972 No Durational Residency Requirement Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, a Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, b. Georgia,c Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, d Indiana, e Iowa, f Louisiana, Maine,g Maryland, Massachusetts, h Minnesota, Nebraska) Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota) Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsink 30-Day Residency Requirement Arizona, I Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, m Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, Wyoming Other Florida, 60 days; Kansas, 20 days; Michigan, 45 days. aNone for presidential elections, 32 days for state. registration requirement. c14-day registration requirement for presidential elections, governor and II. governor. dNone for presidential elections, 30 for state. eNone for presidential elections, 60 for state. f 1 0-day registration requirement. gWhen voting resident moves to another community, must have 3-month residency; retains voting residency In former community. h20-day registration requirement for primary elections, 31.-day for state. !Registration requirement, 2d Friday prior to elections. 115-day registration requirement. kNone for presidential elections. 1 0 days for state. lso-day for state. m1 for presidential elections. Table Source: Information Please Almanac Questionnaires complied by Golenpaul Associates, 1974, p. 82 60


. The diversity of forms and procedures created over the last three and one half centuries sprang from a variety of causes, and they are not easily cataloged for easy identification. Richard Smolka (1973, 193), an expert on the administration of elections, made the point well in his testimony before a Congressional committee: The United States election system is incredibly complex. It is the most decentralized and diverse in the world ... There are now over 521,000 elected officials in this country. These officials are elected through voting procedures which are so varied as to be a monument to the imagination of man. Elections are conducted every week of the year, in Los Angeles County ... alone, sometimes sixty elections are going on at one time at different stages. Registration procedures for participating in local elections cover the entire range of processes known to the western world. The complex nature of the American electoral arena illustrates the dire need for standardization and efficient organization at local, state, and federal levels strictly enforcing the provisions of laws intended to broaden participation. Smolka observes, as do many other scholars in the field of electoral study, that local jurisdictions often develop their own regulations based on loose interpretations of federal and state law. This improvisation should be limited in order to prevent exclusion. As could be expected, there are about as many solutions advocated as there are problems encountered, all springing from the same fertile imaginations. With this in mind, one may wish to consider the following proposals: universal voter enrollment, postcard registration, and absentee balloting. In the final chapter reforms proposed at state and federal levels will be examined. 61


CHAP.TER4 CURRENT ELECTION REFORM AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL AND IN THE STATE OF COLORADO Federal Reform This chapter will examine proposed election reforms, in various stages of passage into law, in both Colorado and the nation. Numerous measures are before the Colorado state legislature, some have already been defeated but others have passed and are sure to have an impact on the level of voter participation in this state. It. is clear that a consistent pattern of low levels of participation exists for numerous reasons. The United States currently ranks last among industrialized democracies in terms of voter participation. In 1988 George Bush was elected with the support of 26 percent of the people. Michael Dukakis received 24 percent while non-voters made up 50 percent of the electorate. Voter turnout had declined by 20 percent since 1960. With only 55 percent of the eligible voters turning out for the 1992 presidential election, in what was basically a three-way split because of Ross Perot, the mandate was even more questionable (Reed 1992, 19) . Few will argue with the proposition that large numbers of Americans don't vote. As this thesis has shown, many eligible citizens don't vote because they can't vote: they are not registered. It is also clear that whether one is registered to vote often depends on where one lives. Variation in registration procedures among the individual states is directly 62


related to overall voter participation. Some states offer a variety of easy, convenient ways to register. Other states have erected barriers through unnecessary and discriminatory registration practices. Relocation from one state to another can also prove to be a hindrance to one's ability to cast a yote. If a person moves to Minnesotaone of the more progressive states--he or she can register several different ways: through the mail, motor vehicle license bureaus, or even on election day. But if one moves from Minnesota to New Hampshire-not ohe of the more progressive states--he or she must apply in person to a local government official during specified hours. The lack of standardized and uniform procedure and the shortcomings which can result show a need for a nationwide set of guidelines. Ease of access to the system is a major factor for all Americans. The most concerned citizens are often the busiest. The League of Women Voters reports that double-income and single-parent families comprise nearly forty percent of America's work force. Numerous federal reforms aimed at standardizing voter registration procedures are currently in the process of being passed into law. Issues such as the lowering of language barriers, synchronizing voting hours and the simplification of voter registration are the subjects of current federal legislation (Reed 1992). Motor-Voter '92 Innovative registration programs in several states and the District of Columbia have proven effective in bringing people into our democratic system. One particularly effective program is known as "motor-voter" 63


registration. It is called "motor-voter" because it ties registration to the most widely recognized form of identification: the driver's license. Under this system, when a person changes address, renews or applies for a driver's license or personal identification card, he or she simultaneously can apply to vote. The League of Women also reports that turnout is higher in jurisdictions with more "voter friendly" registration programs such as "motor voter." In 992 during the 1 02nd Congress, the National Voter Registration Act was defeated by Presidential veto after passing in both houses of Congress. It is in effect, however, in several states, along with other state enacted progressive measures (See Table 4.1.) 64


TABLE 4.1 PROCEDURES IN STATES WITH MOTOR-VOTER AND OTHER-AGENCY-BASED VOTER REGISTRATION PROGRAMS Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia now have some form of agency-based voter registration as part of their state laws and practices, resulting from legislation, referenda, executive orders, administrative initiatives and litigation. Implementation procedures vary greatly and significantly influence program results .. Combined drivers' license/voter registration system Colorado {limited distribution) Connecticut* {implementation expected January 1, 1994) District of Columbia Hawaii Iowa (limited applicability) Kansas* (implementation expected January 1, 1994) Michigan Minnesota Montana1 North Carolina* (implementation expected January 1, 1994) Oregon1 Texas1 Washington 1 Source: Project Vote, National Office Project Vote Publications, Washington, DC 1992 65


Drivers' license application contains mandatary question asking whether individual would like to register to vote Arizona Mississippi Nevada New York (limited applicability) North Carolina Ohio West Virginia Motor vehicle employees ask whether applicants wish to register Maine New Jersey Voter registration forms available in motor vehicle waiting rooms Alaska Connecticut Illinois Louisiana (optional) Maryland New Mexico Oklahoma2 Pennsylvania Rhode Island Tennessee Vermont Amended welfare and unemployment forms (mandatory voter registration question added to intake forms or computer screens) Minnesota NewYork (amended unemployment forms enacted Fall1992) Pennsylvania Source: Project Vote, National Office Project Vote Publications, Washington D.C. 1992 66


Voter registration forms available for other agency-based programs (welfare. health. unemployment. etc.) Arkansas3 Connecticut Hawaii Iowa Maryland New Jersey New York Ohio Oklahoma2 Rhode Island Washington *states which passed reform legislation in 1992. 1 States with computer-integrated systems. 2 In 1987 Governor Harry Bellman issued an Executive Order for state agencies to qffer voter registration services, but state election officials indicate that the Executive Order has not been implemented. 31n 1987 a class-action lawsuit resulted in a Consent Decree directing that state employees be appointed as Deputy Registrars in Human Service agencies. Implementation needs improvement. Source: Project Vote, National Office Project Vote Publications, Washington, D.C. 67


The bill passed in the Congress by a margin of 268 to 153, short of the two-thirds needed to override a Presidential veto. The margin in the Senate was six votes short of being veto-proof; the margin was sixty-one to thirty-eight {Krauss 1992, 1 ). Partisan politics plays an obvious role in the opposition to national election reform at the legislative level. The "no" vote in the legislature was largely Republican although six Republican Senators voted for motor-voter. Among the Democrats, only two Democrat Senators voted against the bill. The Republicans view the National Voter Registration Act as being largely advantageous to the Democrats by adding large numbers of minorities, the working poor and the disadvantaged to the voter rolls. Passage does present a challenge for the Republicans who want.ed to defeat it without appearing openly hostile to participatory democracy. Republicans argued against the bill, claiming that it would allow vote fraud and impose additional costs on the states. They unsuccessfully offered an alternative they said would encourage more voting by granting states $25 million to promote registration. Representative David Dreirer, Republican of California, called the bill "The National Voter Fraud Act," adding: "There is no mandatory address-verification program and other safeguards against fraud. American citizen or not, virtually anyone with a driver's license can register to vote" (Krauss 1992, 1 ). Verification by Social Security number could easily counter non-citizen registration. Non-resident alien and non citizen numbers are easily distinguished from those of citizens. At the time the first motor-voter bill was being voted on and debated in the summer of 1992, more than one third of those eligible were not 68


registered to vote, and only about half of those registered cast a vote in Presidential elections. In 1988, President Bush was elected by one quarter of eligible voters. The turnout for off-year Congressional and local elections is even lower (Krauss 1992). Motor-Voter '93 After suffering a Presidential veto in 1992, the National Registration Act was reintroduced before the 1 03rd Congress in 1993, the purpose of which, as stated on the bill itself, is to establish national voter-registration procedures for federal elections (Swift HR2 1993). Also stated in the bill, in Section 2 under Findings and Purposes, is the notion that the right of U.S. citizens to vote is a fundamental one and that it is the duty of the various levels of government to promote the exercise of that right. The "motor voter" bill also supports the theory that discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures can have a negative effect on voter participation,. especially by the-Jess advantaged and minorities. The goal of the bill is clearly stated: the establishment of procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens registered to vote in federal elections is a priority. Further intended purposes of the bill are to protect the integrity of the electoral process and to ensure that accurate voter registration rolls are maintained. Failure to vote in a particular election would not result in one's name being purged automatically frol'!l the rolls. A voter may also decline to register if he or she chooses to do so. Under "motor-voter" each state would be required to offer voter registration forms to each person applying for or renewing a driver's license. 69


Registration by mail would also be permitted. Prospective voters also could sign up at libraries, schools, city and county clerks' offices and agencies that provide public assistance. Although the bill was stalled by a filibuster during the first week in March, the Senate voted to end the delaying tactic by a vote of sixty-three to thirty eight on Tuesday, March 9, 1993. This almost certainly paves the way for its passage. The needed two thirds majority during the last session of Congress will not be a factor this time. President Clinton voiced public support for the .. motor-voter .. bill and signed it on May 20, 1993. The bill will take effect on January 1, 1996. Its impact will almost certainly be known in a very short time. The next presidential election is in 1996. Exactly how many Americans tt)is bill will bring into the process is a hotly-debated topic. Gracia Hillman, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters, estimates this legislation will enfranchise upwards of 70 million additional voters. She also unequivocally states that .. this bill will strengthen democracy .. in the U.S. (Krauss 1992, 13). Additional measures being proposed at the federal level to expand voter registration and participation are the Bilingual Voting Act and The Uniform Poll-closing Act. The Uniform Poll-closing Act, proposed in the first session of Congress on January 3, 1989, called for an amendment of the Uniform Time Act of 1966 to establish a single, poll-closing time in the continental U.S. for presidential elections. Each polling place would close at 9:00p.m. eastern time. Although there has been some voluntary cooperation by the national 70


news media to refrain from reporting Eastern election returns in the West prior to poll-closing times, many feel that reported landslides such as those which occurred in 1980 and 1984 discouraged Western voters from going to the polls. Sponsors of the bill feel that any negative influence on voter participation should be prevented if possible. The bill was not approved but is expected to be re-introduc.ed. The Bilingual Voting Act, proposed in 1992, would extend and expand the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that require jurisdictions with substantial non-English speaking minorities to provide voter assistance in another language. The areas most deeply affected by such' legislation are largely urban, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Honolulu, although many rural areas of the southwest would also be included because of substantial numbers of Spanish-speaking voters. Estimates reach as high as 860,000 for persons not proficient in English eligible to vote in the U.S. Their increased participation would certainly have a significant impact on the system as a whole, especially at the local and state levels (Reed 1992, 26). This bill also failed to pass in its present form and is also expected to be re introduced. State Registration Reform in Colorado Colorado is among the more progressive states with regard to attempting to increase voter participation through simplification and increased convenience to the elector. Numerous measures have been 71


implemented by the state in recent years, with still others planned for the next legislative season. A "motor-voter" system of registration has been in effect in Colorado since 1987 and has proved quite effective, despite complaints that excessive costs, possibly running into six figures, will burden the state. Secretary of State Natalie Meyer reported recently that the cost of running the "motor-voter" program in Colorado runs at about $170,000 per year, a nominal fee compared to opposing projections {Brinkley 1993, 24). Contrary to the national trend, in the face of Republican opposition, prior to "motor-voter" there were slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in Colorado. That has since been reversed. This recent election year of 1992 brought still another innoyative change to Colorado electoral procedure: Colorado is one of only two states which offer early voting--prior to election day--without requiring notarized proof that the voter cannot vote on election day. Texas is the other. Response to the initiative far exceeded projections throughout the metro Denver area. Nearly 30,000 persons--nearly 10 percent of registered voters in the state--voted early or requested absentee ballots for the November 1992 election (Hernandez 1992, 6 ). "Mail in" procedural matters are currently the subject of House Bill 93-1140 which passed the Colorado State Legislature in the 1993 session. Similar to, and in accordance with, the federal "mail in" procedures, this state bill would allow for the replacement of affidavit registration with a simplified registration card which can either be mailed or submitted in person to the Secretary of State. 72


The purging of voter roles because of an elector's failure to vote in successive elections has been addressed in the current version of the national"motor-voter" bill. Updating voter roles has always been a concern of election officials at all levels. Efficient methods are constantly being explored in. order to avoid duplication and fraud. The State of Colorado House Bill 93-1175, which passed in the last session, addresses the relocation of voters within the state. The bill specifies that when an eligible elector applies for registration after moving from one county to another, the county clerk and recorder of the new county are required to notify the county clerk of the elector's prior county of residence of the new registration, using the statewide electronic registration system. The elector's prior county clerk would then cancel the elector's registration record from the that county's registration books. Electoral procedures related to the nomination process, the clarification of ballot issues and the controversial"none of the above" option are among other potential legislative measures which went before the Colorado State legislature in 1993. The caucus system is one of the oldest methods of choosing candidates in the United States. Under State Senate Bill 930956, the Colorado caucus system for the selection of candidates would be removed and nominating procedures by petition and by application would replace it. The caucus system tends to favor the two established parties and doesn't allow for a third party or independent candidates. This bill provides procedures for persons to become independent candidates by filing an 73


application, paying a fee and meeting petiti.on deadlines. The order in which names appear on ballots would be determined by lot. Clarification of ballot issues is the subject of Colorado House Bill 931155. Voting to enact laws which affect the everyday lives of citizens is seen as a key part of participatory democracy. It is often controversial ballot issues which draw additional voters to the polls who may be apathetic about candidates for office. The move to make the issues more clearly understood in Colorado comes on the heels of the passage of laws and guidelines that are viewed by many to have passed by voters who had a limited understanding of their actual ramifications. The bill would require that initiative measures be drafted, to the extent possible, with clarity and simplicity in order to avoid confusion among voters. It also that initiative measures be drafted in such a manner that voters casting a vote for a particular measure are likely to be casting a vote in favor of the proposition or viewpoint that they believe they are casting a vote for. In a further effort to avoid confusion, it would be required that when a measure is placed on the ballot by referendum or initiative, there shall appear on the ballot, following the title of the measure, a phrase that explains the effect of a "yes" vote in addition to one which describes the effect of a "no" vote. It is hoped that through this measure a more accurate representation of voter intentions will be achieved. Probably the most controversial bill before the Colorado legislature with regard to election reform in 1993 is "None of These Candidates," SB 195. This legislation would require a ballot to include a line marked "None of these candidates" at the end of the list of candidates for each office. This 74


option would be open on all candidate elections except those of justices or judges. In a case when "None of these candidates" received the most votes, a new election would be held, and none of the losing candidates could be included in the new ballot. "None of these candidates" was defeated by the Senate Affairs Committee on February 22., 1993, by a margin of 6-3. Had it passed, it would have been the second such bill of its kind in the nation. It did in fact receive nationwide attention, as well it should. Nevada has had a similar measure in effect since 1976. The "none of the above" option has yet to gain a majority of votes. Critics of the bill cite excessive costs for second elections, but as suggested in the case of Nevada, it probably wouldnt be a frequent occurrence. Senator Bishop feels the measure would give the disenchanted voter a chance to go to the polls and show that rather than opting out of voting in some race or even staying away from the polls, an elector could make his voice heard. In a compromise version of the bill, Bishop offered to revise the Colorado bill to remove the requirement for a second election. The Nevada law currently includes this provision. The amendment failed to make it much more appealing to State Senate members, however (Gavin 1993, 1 ). Colorado is clearly one of the more reform-minded states when it comes to electoral procedure. There is little doubt that the trend toward attempts to increase citizen participation in this state will continue. 75


Conclusion: Increased Registration Increased Turnout? Close to 91 million members of the American voting-age population voted in the November 1988 presidential election and nearly 91 million did not vote. According to statistics compiled for ABC News, the 1988 turnout, expressed as a percentage of the voting-age population, was 50.2 percent, : the lowest percentage turnout since 1924. It was also the first time since 1944 that the actual number of voters .declined from one presidential election to the next (Smith, 1989). From 1920, the first election allowing nationwide female suffrage, to 1960 the turnout did increase fairly steadily from 42.5 percent to 62.0 percent. However, since then it has declined again to the 1988 low. In the years before 1960, several factors, such as the initial failure of .some women to exercise their new rights to the franchise and severe discrimination against blacks and others in certain parts of the country, could help account for low turnouts, but one would expect these factors to be less significant in more recent years. An international survey conducted in 1983 of turnout percentages in democratic nations placed the United States twenty-third on a list of twenty-four nations (Piven & Cloward 1988). It is. obvious that the U.S. up to this point has had a relatively uncoordinated approach to voter registration. While the public ideology favors participation, the political apparatus does not make it as easy as it might. The state, instead of keeping regulations and inconvenience to a minimum and actively assisting citizens in registration, has in the past made 76


qualifying to vote a process directly dependent on individual effort. State-by-state differences clearly make the collection of accurate national data difficult, but analysts tend to agree that turnout among those who are registered is relatively high. The U.S. Census Bureau's figures, often inflated, placed turnout at 88 percent in 1984, but the Bureau also reported that about one-third of eligible voters were not even registered at the time (Simmons 1988}. Registration laws alone are not the solution to the overall problem of apathy and lack of participation in our democratic process. However, voter turnout is consistently higher in those states where registration is easier, and any reversal of the non-participatory trend would be a welcome one. When we examine the relationship between voter registration procedures, electoral procedures in general, and overall voter turnout, the principal question which arises is: will increased voter registration cause voter turnout to Piven and Cloward (1988} provide clear evidence that people do in fact vote if they are registered. They point to a U.S. census in 1980 which states that 89 percent of registered voters had reported turning out for elections in that year. The National Election Study (NES} also reported high rates of turnout among registered voters in both the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections (Piven & Cloward 1988}. Perhaps the single largest factor which will influence future voter turnout is the so-called "motor-voter law". It is expected to have a profound impact on the election process at national and state levels. With its ratification by President Clinton on May 20, 1993, a more inclusive process 77


of voting was set in motion. The law requires states to allow registration by mail as well as when citizens apply for or renew a driver's license, visit welfare or other government agencies, or stop by a military recruiting office. According to Project Vote, at the present time roughly 65 percent of Americans are registered to vote. Supporters of the new law and its provisions project that the. number could rise to as high as 90 percent within a few years because of easier registration. Younger voters are likely to benefit most from the new rules. Advocates representing organizations such as Rock the Vote, which lobbied eighteen-to twenty-four-year-aids to register for the 1992 election, enthusiastically supported the legislation. Disabled Americans also mak1;3 up a large segme.nt of persons not currently registered. Estimates run as high as 17 million for the number of with disabilities who are not currently on the voting roles because of inaccessible registration offices. The option to register by mail or at other government agencies will almost certainly increase their numbers on voter roles (AP, 1993). Critics of the "motor-voter" bill claim that the provision which prohibits the automatic purging of a voter's name because he or she has not voted in recent elections would invite fraud. A counter measure is, however, built into the legislation: strict federal penalties would be imposed on any persons who engage in registration or election fraud. It is clear that many Americans are not registered to vote and do not vote for various reasons. Improvements and modernizations in the registration and electoral system in general would increase the number of persons involved with the system. The potential impact of larger numbers 78


of voters going to the polls could only be speculated on, but few would argue that more participation would focus attention on many of the serious problems in the U.S. today; hopefully. affecting the needed solutions to those problems. 79


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