Citation
The short ballot

Material Information

Title:
The short ballot a movement to simplify politics
Creator:
Childs, Richard S ( Richard Spencer ), 1882-
National Municipal League
Place of Publication:
New York
Publisher:
National Municipal League
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Edition:
[6th ed. ].
Physical Description:
30 pages : ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Ballot -- United States ( lcsh )
Elections -- United States ( lcsh )
Ballot ( fast )
Elections ( fast )
United States ( fast )
Genre:
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

General Note:
"The Short Ballot principle was worked out and named by Richard S. Childs, of New York, in 1909."
Statement of Responsibility:
Richard S. Childs.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
21574151 ( OCLC )
ocm21574151
Classification:
JK2446 .C43s ( lcc )

Auraria Membership

Aggregations:
Literature Collections

Full Text

THE
Short Ballot
A Movement to Simplify Politics
By
Richakd S. Childs
The long ballot is the politicians ballot,
the short ballot is the peoples ballot.
I believe the Short Ballot is the key to
the whole problem of the restoration of
popular government in this country.
Woodrow Wilson
NATIONAL MUNICIPAL LEAGUE
261 Broadway, New York
[Sixth edition, 1930]


The Short Ballot Principle
THE dangerously great power of politicians in
our country is not due to any peculiar civic in-
difference of the people, but rests on the fact
that we are living under a form of democracy that is
so unworkable as to constitute in practice a pseudo-
democracy. It is unworkable because
First It submits to popular election offices which
are too unimportant to attract or deserve public at-
tention, and,
Second It submits to popular election so many
offices at one time that many of them are inevitably
crowded out from proper public attention, and,
Third It submits to popular election so many
offices at one time as to make the business of ticket-
making too intricate for popular participation, where-
upon some sort of private political machine becomes
an indispensable instrument in electoral action.
Many officials, therefore, are elected without ade-
quate public scrutiny, and owe their selection not to
the people, but to the makers of the party ticket, who
thus acquire an influence that is capable of great
abuse.
The SHORT BALLOT principle is
First That only those offices should be elective
which are important enough to attract and deserve
public scrutiny.
Second That very few offices should be filled by
election at one time, so as to permit adequate and un-
confused scrutiny of the candidates by the public,
and so as to facilitate the free and intelligent mak-
ing of original tickets by any voter for himself un-
aided by political specialists.
Obedience to this fundamental principle explains
the comparative success of democratic government in
Great Britain and other foreign democracies, as well
as in Cincinnati, Dayton and other American cities
that have city-manager plan.
The application of this principle should be extend-
ed to all cities, counties and states.


(
The Short Ballot
A Movement to Simplify Politics
WE have in our states, counties and cities
peculiar systems of government and
after patient trial for many generations they
are under indictment and suspicion. Our local
governments are less anxious to please the
people than they are to please the politicians
who thus become an irresponsible ruling
class with a vast and marketable influence.
The insubordination of our political sys-
tems is a unique American phenomenon.
Blind Voting
Starting at the broad base of our structure,
the voters, we notice one unique phenomenon
which is so familiar to us that we usually
overlook it entirely that is our habit of vot-
ing blindly. Of course intelligent citizens do
not vote without knowing what they are doing.
Oh, no. You, Mr. Reader, for instance, you
vote intelligently always! Of course, you do!
But whom did you vote for for Surrogate last
time? You dont know? Well, then, whom
did you support for State Auditor? For State
Treasurer? For Clerk of the Court? For Su-
preme Court Judge? And who is your Alder-
3


(
man? Who represents your district at the
State Capitol? Name, please, all the candi-
dates you voted for at the last election. Of
course you know the President and the Gov-
ernor and Mayor, but there was a long list
of minor offices besides. Unless you are active
in politics I fear you flunk this examination.
If your ballot had by a printers error omitted
the State Comptroller entirely, you would
probably not have missed it. It was a long
ballot; you found from 15 to 50 offices on it
30 to 200 candidates and you exercised
personal discrimination for reasons of your
own as to several conspicuous ones; and for
the rest you voted blindly for all the Repub-
licans or all the Democrats. You ignored
nine-tenths of your ballot, voting for those
you did know about and casting a straight
party ticket for the rest, not because of party
loyalty, but because you did not know of any-
thing better to do. You need not feel ashamed
of it. Your neighbors all did the same;
ex-President Eliot of Harvard, the ideal citi-
zen, confessed in a public address once, that
he did it, too. Woodrow Wilson once re-
marked that he had never voted intelligently
in his life except for the head-of-the-ticket
candidates. It is a typical and universal
American attitude. We all vote blindly. Phil-
adelphia has even elected imaginery men.
4


{
The judgment of the community is not being
applied to any of the minor offices on the bal-
lot. The average American citizen never
casts a completely intelligent vote. And a
man who votes blindly is being bossed!
Should We Blame the Voters?
This is not all the fault of the voter. To
cast a really intelligent ballot from a mere
study of newspapers, campaign literature and
speeches is impossible because practically noth-
ing is ever published about the minor candi-
dates. And this in turn is not always the fault
of the press. In New York City the number
of elective -offices in state, city and county to
be filled by popular vote in a cycle of four
years is nearly five hundred. In Chicago there
have been six thousand nominees in a single
primary election. Philadelphia, although small-
er than these cities, elects more officials than
either. No newspaper can give publicity to
so many candidates or examine properly into
their relative merits. The most strenuous
minor candidate cannot get a hearing amid
such confusion. And the gossip around the
local headquarters being too one-sided to be
trusted by a casual inquirer, a deep working
personal acquaintance with politics, involving
years of experience and study, becomes neces-
5


{
sary before a voter can obtain the data for
casting a wholly intelligent ballot.
Plainly the voter is over-burdened with more
questions that he will answer carefully, for it
is certain that the average citizen cannot afford
the time to fulfill such unreasonable require-
ments. Since the voters at the polls are the
foundation of a democracy, this universal habit
of voting blindly constitutes a huge break in
that foundation which is serious enough to
account for the toppling of the whole structure.
Now long ballots are a strictly American
monstrosity no other nation ever over-
loaded its voters with anything of the sort.
The English ballot never covers more than
three offices, usually only one. In Canada
the ballot is less commonly limited to a single
office, but the number is never large. A Swiss
would have to live a hundred years to vote
upon as many men as an American under-
takes to elect in one day. To any foreigner,
our long ballot is astonishing and our blind
voting appalling. We, with our huge ballots,
require our citizens to be twenty to fifty
times as alert as foreign citizens in order to
keep from electing men we dont really want.
Let us see if we can trace out a connection
between our long ballots as a cause and mis-
representative government as the effect.
6


f
Blind Voting leads to Government by
Politicians
No one will deny that if nine-tenths of the
citizens ignored politics and did not vote at all
on election day, the remaining tenth would
govern. And when practically all men vote
in nine-tenths ineffectiveness, about the same
delegation of power occurs the remaining
fraction who do give enough time to the sub-
ject to be politically effective, take control.
That fraction we call politicians in our
unique American sense of the word. A poli-
tician is a political specialist. He is one who
knows more about the voters political business
than does the voter himself. He knows that
the coroners term will expire in January, and
contributes toward the discussion involved in
nominating a successor, whereas the voter
hardly knows that a coroner is being elected.
The politicians come from all classes and
ranks and the higher intelligence of the com-
munity may contribute its full quota. Al-
though they are only a fraction of the elec-
torate they may be a fair average selection
and they might give us exactly the kind of
government we all want if only they could
remain free and independent personal units.
But the impulse to organize is irresistible.
Convenience and efficiency require it and the
organization springs up and cements them
7


t
together. Good men who see the organiza-
tion go wrong on a nomination continue to
stay in and lend their strength, not bolting
unless moral conditions become intolerable.
Were these men not bound by an organiza-
tion with its social and other non-political
ties, their revolt would be early, easy and
effective and every bad nomination would
receive its separate and proportionate punish-
ment in the alienation of supporters.
Politicians cant exclude Public Enemies
from their Ranks
The control of any political organization
which has favors to distribute will gravitate
always toward a low level. The doors must
be open to every voter examination of his
civic spirit is impossible and greed and al-
truism enter together. Greed has most to
gain in a factional dispute and is least scru-
pulous in choice of methods. The bad politi-
cian carries more weapons than the politician
who hampers himself with a code of ethics
one degree higher. Consequently corruption
finally dominates any machine that is worth
dominating and sinks it lower and lower as
worse men displace better, until the limit of
public toleration is reached and the machine
receives a set-back at election. That causes
its members to clean up, discredit the men
8


f
who went too far, and restore a standard
high enough to win which standard im-
mediately begins to sag again by the opera-
tion of the same natural principle.
Reformers in our cities have given up the
endeavor to maintain pure political organiza-
tions on the model of the regular party organi-
zations. A typical experience is that of the
Citizens Union of New York, whose leaders
have always been sincerely bent on improving
the conditions of politics. The Union acquired
power enough to become an important factor
in elections. After the first such election,
small political organizations which had aided
toward the victory rushed in, clamoring for
plunder. For a term or two the reformers
were able to resist the pressure. Nevertheless
the possession of power by their party inevit-
ably attracted the self-seekers; the reformers
found themselves accepting assistance from
men who turned out to be in politics for what
there was in it, men who wanted to use the
power and patronage that lay at hand un-
utilized, and it was clear that those men would
in time, working within the Union, depose
the original heads of the party, and substitute
more practical leaders of their own kind,
until in time the Citizens Union would itself
need reforming. So the Union retired from
the field as a party, broke up the district
9


('
organizations which had yielded to corruption
and adopted a less vulnerable type of internal
government in order to preserve its purity of
purpose.
It is obvious that most political parties do
not thus commit suicide to evade internal con-
tamination and lapse of principle!
Theoretically there is always the threat of
the minority party machine which stands ready
to take advantage of every lapse, but as there
is no debate between minor candidates, no
adequate public scrutiny or comparison of per-
sonalities, the minority machine gets no credit
for a superior nomination and often finds
that it can more hopefully afford to cater to
its own lowest elements. In fact, it may be
only the dominant machine which can venture
to affront the lowest elements of its member-
ship and nominate the better candidate.
Misrepresentative Government the Normal
Result of Government by Politicians
The essence of our complaint against our
government is that it represents these easily
contaminated political organizations instead of
the citizens. Naturally! When practically
none but the politicians in his district are
aware of his actions or even of his existence,
the minor elective office-holder who refuses
io


(
to bow to their will is committing political
suicide.
Sometimes the interests of the politician and
the people are parallel, but sometimes they are
not and the office-holder is apt to diverge along
the path of politics. An appointment is made,
partly at least, to strengthen the machine,
since the appointee has a certain following. A
bill is considered not on its simple merits but
on the issue Who is behind it? If it is
Boss Smith of Green County who wants it,
whatever his reasons, we must placate him or
risk disaffection in that district. So appoint-
ments and measures lose their original and
proper significance and become mere pawns in
the chess game of politics which aims to keep
our side on top. The office-holders them-
selves may be upright, bribe-proof men they
usually are, in fact. But their failure to disre-
gard all exigencies of machine politics consti-
tutes misrepresentative government and Boss
Smith of Green County can privately sell his
influence if he chooses, whereby the public is
in the end a heavy sufferer.
Summary of the Analysis
Thus the connection between the long ballot
and misrepresentative government is estab-
lished : By voting the long ballot blindly, we
relinquish large governing power unto easily-
n


c
contaminated organizations of political spe-
cialists, and we must expect to get the kind
of government that will naturally proceed from
their trusteeship.
Every factor in this sequence is a unique
American phenomenon. Our long ballot with
its variegated list of trivial offices is a freak
among the nations. The resultant blind vot-
ing is similarly unique. The politicians as a
professional class, separate from popular
leaders or officeholders, do not prevail in
other lands and the very word politician
has a special meaning in this country which
foreigners do not attach to it. And govern-
ment from behind the scenes by politicians,
in endless opposition to government by pub-
lic opinion, is the final unique American
phenomenon in the long ballots train of con-
sequences.
The Voting That Is Not Blind
The blind vote, of course, does not take in
the whole ballot. Certain conspicuous offices
engage our attention and we all vote for those
with discrimination and care. We go to hear
the speeches of the candidates for conspicuous
offices, those speeches are printed in the daily
papers, and reviewed in the weeklies, the can-
didates are the theme of editorials, and the in-
telligent voter who takes no part in politics,
12


(
votes with knowledge on certain important
candidacies.
In an obscure contest on the blind end of
the ballot, conformity with popular opinion has
little political value, but in these conspicuous
contests where we actually compare man and
man, complete compliance is a definite asset
to a nominee. Hence in the case of an obscure
nomination, the tendency is automatically away
from the people, but in a conspicuous nomi-
nation the tendency is toward the people.
Accordingly while we elect aldermen who
do not represent us, and legislators who obey
the influences of unseen powers, we are apt
to do very well when it comes to the choice
of a conspicuous officer like a president, a
governor, or a mayor. For mayor, governor
or president we are sure to secure a present-
able figure, always honest and frequently an
able and independent champion of the people
against the very machine that nominated him.
We are apt to re-elect such men, and the way
we sweep aside hostile politicians to do it shows
how strong is our impulse to reward the faith-
ful servant.
And so in these conspicuous offices those
for which we do not vote blindly we secure
comparatively sensitive obedient government
as a normal condition, considering that the
organized and skillful opposition which always
13


faces us occupies a position of great strategic
advantage in possession of the nominating ma-
chinery.
THE REMEDY
We cannot hope to teach or force the entire
citizenship to scrutinize the long ballot and
cease to vote blindly on most of it. The
Mountain will not come to Mahomet; Mahomet
then must go to the Mountain.
First.!We must shorten the ballot to a
point where the average man will vote intelli-
gently without giving to politics more attention
than he does at present. That means making
it very short, for if the number of these simul-
taneous elections is greater than the bulk of
the citizens care to keep track of, then we
have government by the remaining 40 per cent,
or 20 per cent, of the citizens and no matter
whom we believe to be at fault, that plan in
practice will have resulted in oligarchy and be
a failure. The test for shortness is to inquire,
when a given number of offices are filled by
election, whether the people vote blindly or
not on any one of them. For if they begin to
require tickets ready-made for their con-
venience, they are sharing their power with
the ticket-makers and democracy is fled!
Second. We must put on the elective list
only offices that are naturally conspicuous.
14


r
The petty offices must either go off the ballot
and be consolidated under a responsible ap-
* pointing power, no matter how awkwardly, or
they must be increased in real public import-
ance by added powers until they rise into such
t eminence as to be visible to all the people.
The County Surveyor, for instance, must go,
for the electorate will not bother with such
trifles whether the ballot be short or not. Why
indeed should 50,000 voters all be asked to
pause for even a few minutes apiece to study
the relative qualifications of Smith and Jones
for the petty $3,ooo-a-year post of County
Surveyor? Any intelligent citizen may prop-
erly have bigger business on his hands!
And the Alderman we cant abolish him
perhaps, but we can increase his power by en-
larging his district and lengthening his term
and making his Board a small one.
That candidates should be conspicuous is
vital. The people must be able to see what
they are doing; they must know the candi-
J dates otherwise they are not in control of
, the situation, but are only going through the
motions of controlling.
IS


r
The Short Ballot Applied
To be pictorial, let us see how a revised
schedule of elections might look if we put into
the realm of appointment (i. e., consolidated)
as many as possible of those offices which the
people now ignore. Most county offices, many
city positions and the tail of the State ticket
would thus be disposed of. In Oregon the
Peoples Power League (which devised the
Initiative, Referendum and Recall) once pro-
posed to capture the representative system for
the people by an initiative petition to shorten
the November ballots to the following sched-
ule:
First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
President and Vice-President four years. Governor four years. Appoints all state admin- istration, and Sheriffs and District At- torneys. Congressman two years. Judges.
Congressman two years. Senator six years. State Auditor four years. State Representative four years. (State Senate abolished.') 3 County Directors four years. Appoint all other county Officers.
That is simply one scheme many varia-
tions are possible.
Be it noted that the founders of the re-
public gave the national government a short
ballot. We propose no alterations there.
16


State governments offer a fertile field for
the application of the short ballot idea. It
seems logical for them to copy the national
government, electing only governor, lieuten-
ant-governor and legislators, and appointing
minor state officers and judges. A few states
have recently reorganized their administra-
tive departments to eliminate an accumu-
lated disarray of elective officials, appointive
or elective boards, commissions and agencies.
These have been consolidated under orderly
departments with clear lines of responsibility
from top to bottom. To remove a state elec-
tive officer from the ballot usually requires a
constitutional amendment, and consequent-
ly a thorough application of the short ballot
principle has never yet been carried out.
States which have most thoroughly adopted
the short ballot (and its correlative, centrali-
zation of administrative power and respon-
sibility) are: Tennessee, Virginia and New
York. (New Jersey elects no state-wide of-
ficers except the Governor but the ballots are
made long by the election of legislators in
large county groups.) (See pamphlets Ad-
ministrative Consolidation in State Govern-
ments by A. E. Buck and A Model State
Constitution both published by the National
Municipal League.
It may be objected that to take the minor
17


(
offices off the state ticket, for instance, and
make them appointive by the Governor would
be giving too much power to the Governor.
Well, somebody, we rarely know who, prac-
tically appoints them now! To have them ap-
pointed by a recognized, legally-constituted au-
thority is surely better than to have them select-
ed by a self-established, unofficial, unknown
and irresponsible coterie of politicians. There
is no great peril in unifying power, provided
we can watch what is done with it. (Suppose
we were electing by popular vote not only the
President and Vice-President of the United
States, but the cabinet, the supreme court and
the other federal judges, the federal marshals,
district-attorneys, foreign ambassadors and
postmasters! Can you see how our superficial
doctrinaires would resist the adoption of the
present unified and bossless plan?)
The History of the Long Ballot
In the early days of the republic the activi-
ties of the state and municipal governments
were small and there were few offices. Little
by little new offices were created and for hap-
hazard reasons were frequently made elective.
At the same time we were changing from a
nation of villages to a nation of cities. The
likelihood that the voters would personally
18


(%
know the candidates was steadily diminishing.
The voters became more and more dependent
on hearsay evidence. Newspaper space was
limited, and not every candidate could get
enough of it to make himself known to the
people. The number of elective officials was
thus increasing while the practicability of elect-
ing them all was diminishing. The public was
becoming bigger and clumsier but its political
work was becoming more delicate and intri-
cate. Perhaps if it had all come suddenly we
would have seen that the long ballot was an
experts ballot and led infallibly toward practi-
cal oligarchy, whereas, a short, simple ballot
was the peoples ballot and led toward practical
democracy. But the long ballot came slowly
and looked like a friend. Every time it grew
longer a few more voters began to vote blindly
till today (outside of rural elections, perhaps)
everybody but a few political specialists votes
blindly on part of his ballot. So we have to-
day not democracy but government by politi-
cal specialists ' a ruling class a self-created
aristocracy of political insiders and that is
oligarchy! The fact that it was honestly in-
tended to be a democracy is not enough to
make it one. If it doesnt democ, it isnt
democracy!
19


The Short Ballot in Operation
Fighting government-by-politicians now is
like fighting the wind. If the government is
to be brought within the sure control of the
people, the ballot must be brought within the
sure control of the individual voter. We must
get on a basis where the real intentions of the
average voter find intelligent expression on the
entire ballot so as to produce normally the kind
of government the voters want, whether that
kind be good or bad. It will in fact be good
not as good as the most enlightened of the
populace may desire, but better than what the
politicians can be expected to purvey. At any
rate the right route to reform is via democracy
and politics without any politicians at all.
Impossible in this country? No! There
are now hundreds of American cities that have
found their way to a system of government in
which the politicians have no function, nothing
that requires their expertness or activity, and
administrations have been selected and re-
selected term after term for as long as six-
teen years with no aid from such political go-
betweens In their elections, the candidates
have come forward on their personal initia-
tive, have sought the voters approval and
gotten elected, thus owing their offices to no
one but the citizens with whom they had
thus conducted the business direct. The con-
20


If
tractor coming to town to look for a job has
nowhere to go but to the City Hall; there is
no boss or other private person of dominating
political influence who must be fixed. The
non-partisan ballot, carrying merely the
names of the candidates without any roosters
or eagles or magic words like Republican
or Democratic to steer the wavering pencil,
works perfectly; it could not work at all if
the ballot were long.
For these towns are the ones that have
vested their governments in councils of a
few members with a city-manager. With a
separate election and only five or seven
councilmen to elect, the peoples task is sim-
ple and without conscious effort they vote
informedly on 100 per cent of their ballot.
It would be pleasant to report that with their
politics thus made understandable these towns
forthwith achieved an easy Utopia. Their
achievements do in most cases read like ro-
mance of the happiest sort with stories of
lower taxes, lower debts, lower death rates,
orderly finance and a new spirit of service and
clean management. (This story is in our pam-
phlet ^The Story of the City-Manager Plan,
ioc.) The results are not invariably so happy,
but the foundation is sound, consisting as it
does of the actual open-eyed consent of the
great bulk of the voters.
21


(
It Has been thought that this was the fruit
of correct organization, analogous to a busi-
ness corporation with its board of directors.
But there are many other elected commissions
and boards in the United States County
Commissions, Boards of Education, Boards
of Assessors, etc. and they are not conspic-
uously successful. Their obscurity and insignifi-
cance conceal them from public oversight as ef-
fectively as if publicity were forbidden by a
censorship, and in consequence those parts of
our government are utterly beyond popular con-
trol. No! Popular government as distinguished
from politicians government is a matter of
electing the peoples men in the first place. To
elect the peoples men is first of all a matter
of arranging for the maximum amount of
concentrated public scrutiny at the election.
The way for the people to keep popular ene-
mies out of office is to refrain from electing
them. And the way to refrain from electing
them is to arrange to get a good look at every
one of them at election time.
Were it otherwise, we would find misgov-
ernment in British cities which, except for this
feature, are ideally organized from an Amer-
ican grafters point of view. The British city
authorities are hampered most unjustly by a
hostile House of Lords, their machinery of
government is ancient and complicated, and
22


f
their big councils with committees exercising
executive management over the departments,
with ample opportunity for concealment of
wrongdoing, with no restraining civil service
examinations, with one-tenth of the laboring
population on the municipal payrolls would ap-
parently provide an impregnable paradise for
the American politician of the lowest type.
But the ballot for an English municipal elec-
tion can be covered by the palm of the hand.
It contains usually the names of two candidates
for one office, member of the Council for the
ward. (The Council elects the Mayor, the
Aldermen and all other city officers.) Blind
voting on so short a ballot is hardly conceiv-
able. Every voter is a complete politician in
our sense of the word. The entire intelligence
of the community is in harness, pulling of
course, toward the community interest. An
American ward politician in this barren environ-
ment, unaided by any vast blind vote, could
only win by corrupting a plurality of the whole
electorate, a thing that is easily suppressed by
law even if it were not otherwise a manifest
impossibility. So there are no ward politicians
in England, no profession of politics, and mis-
representative government is abnormal. (The
number of elective offices in English cities, by
the way, is nevertheless greater than in ours,
for there are many wards and those councils
23


(
are consequently large. Dont think that the
Short Ballot necessarily means few elective
offices.)
Similarly these Short Ballot American cities
concentrate the attention of the voters sharply
upon candidates for only about five offices, all
very important. The press can give adequate
attention to every one and in consequence
every intelligent voter in his easy chair at
home, forms opinions on the whole five and
has a definite notion of the personality of the
candidates. In such a situation the ward poli-
tician has no function. There is no ignorant
laissez-faire, no mesh of detail for him to trade
upon. He is now no more powerful than any
other citizen, and his only strength lay in what-
ever genuine leadership he possesses. More-
over, if he nominates men who can stand the
fierce limelight and get elected, they will ipso
facto probably be men who would resist his at-
tempt to control them afterward. Or if they did
cater to him, it would be difficult to do his bid-
ding right in the concentrated glare of publicity
where the responsibility could be and, what is
much more vital, would be, correctly placed by
every voter.
24


BALLOT PAPER
1 NETTLEFOLD. (John Sutton Nettlefold, Winter- bourn, Edgbaston Park Road, Edgbaston, Gentleman.)
2 TUNBRIDGE. (William Stephen Tunbridge, Rocklands, Woodbourne Road, Edgbaston, Solicitor.)
This is a typical official ballot (actual size) for an English election. It shows the names
of two candidates for a single office Councillor from the ward. The people in each ward
simply make one choice, and accordingly knew just what they are doing on election day. The
scrutiny of the people thus concentrated bars out unacceptable candidates almost automatically.


(
Conclusion
Just how we are to get rid of the great un-
digested part of our long ballot is a small mat-
ter so long as we get rid of it somehow.
Govern a city by a big Board of Aldermen, if
you like, or by a Commission as small as you
dare make it. Readjust State constitutions in
any way you please. Terms of office can be
lengthened. Many officers, now elected, can
be appointed by those we do elect. But man-
age somehow to get our eggs into the baskets
that we watch!
For remember>we are not governed by
public opinion but by public-opinion-as-ex-
pressed-through-the-pencil-point-of -the-Aver-
age-Voter-in-his-election-booth. And that may
be a vastly different thing! Public opinion can
only work in broad masses, clumsily but with
tremendous force. To make a multitude of
delicate decisions is beyond its blunt powers.
It cant play the tune it has in mind upon our
complicated political instrument. But give it a
keyboard simple enough for its huge, slow
hands, and it will thump out the right notes
with precision!
There is nothing the matter with Americans.
We are by far the most intelligent electorate
in the world. We are not apathetic. Apathy
is a purely relative matter depending on how
much is asked. Ask much of the people and
26


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you will see more apathy than if you ask little.
If the people of Glasgow were asked to attend
caucuses, primaries, conventions and rallies in
support of the best candidates for Coroner,
they too would stay home by their firesides
and let the worst man have it. If they had
our long ballot they would be in a worse mess
than we are with it. And if we, on the other
hand, could get their handy short ballot, we
too would use it creditably. For our human
nature is no worse than theirs. The Scotch
immigrant in our midst is no more active a
citizen than the rest of us. We are not in
different. We do want good government.
And we can win back our final freedom on a
Short Ballot basis!
The Short Ballot Movement
The Short Ballot principle, now accepted by po->
litical reformers everywhere as fundamental, was
worked out and named by Richard S. Childs and
Woodrow Wilson in 1909, at which time the Na-
tional Short Ballot Organization was formed, with
Woodrow Wilson as President, Winston Churchill,
Horace E. Deming, Ben B. Lindsay, William S.
URen, William Allen White, Clinton Rogers
Woodruff and the late John Mitchell as Vice-Presi-
dents, Richard S. Childs as Secretary-Treasurer,
and a governing board, consisting of Lawrence F.
Abbott, Henry Jones Ford, Norman Hapgood,
Richard S. Childs and Woodrow Wilson.
27


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The Short Ballot principle was taken up by Charles
E. Hughes, then Governor of New York, and subse-
quently has figured in the messages of about forty
governors. Several states have shortened their bal-
lots slightly and all the constitutional conventions in
this period have split on the issue, the most nearly
complete acceptances thus far being by Tennessee,
New York and Virginia, as applied to the state
ticket. Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati
and Detroit have adopted the principle in their latest
charters and about 600 smaller cities have accepted
it as part of the commission plan or the city-mana-
ger plan of government, the latter being devised
and promoted by the Short Ballot Organization and
the National Municipal League to correct certain
defects of the former.
The Short Ballot Organization consolidated with
the National Municipal League in 1921.
28


c
A Few of Many Notable Endorsements:
The Short Ballot is absolutely the gist of
all constructive reform. Every patriot will
wish the Short Ballot Organization success!
Ex-President Chas. W. Eliot of Harvard Univ.
In the first place, I believe in the short
ballot. You cannot get good service from the
public servant if you cannot see him, and there
is no more effective way of hiding him than
by mixing him up with a multitude of others
so that they are none of them important enough
to catch the eye of the average work-a-day
citizen.
Theodore Roosevelt, Address before Ohio Con-
stitutional Convention, 1912.
I have the fullest sympathy with every re-
form in governmental and election machinery
which shall facilitate the expression of the
popular will, such as the Short Ballot and the
reduction in elective offices.
William H. Taft, Presidential Speech of Accept-
ance, 1912.
The most advanced thought in our nation
has reached the conclusion that we can best
avoid blind voting and best obtain discrimina-
tion of the electorate by a short ballot.
Hiram W. Johnson, Inaugural Address as Gov-
ernor of California, Jan. 4, 1911.
29


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I am in favor of as few elective offices as
may be consistent with proper accountability
to the people, and a Short Ballot.
Governor Chas. E. Hughes of New York in his
Annual Message to the Legislature, Jan. 4, 1910.
The long ballot is the jungle/ of which I
have been writing.
Judge Ben, B. Lindsey of Denver.
I am heartily in favor of the Short Ballot
principle and look for its early and general
adoption.
John Mitchell, Labor leader Vice-Pres. of
Short Ballot Organization.
The short ballot principle has been endorsed
by practically all American writers on Political
Science and is being taught in the Political
Science classes of all colleges and universities.
BOOK, SHORT BALLOT PRINCI-
PLES, by Richard S. Childs. A complete
outline of the doctrine and the problems of ap-
plication. 170 pp. Obtainable at book stores,
or sent postpaid for $1.50 net, by Houghton,
Mifflin Co., Boston.
The long ballot is the politicians ballot;
the Short Ballot is the peoples ballot.
30


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LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
PAMPHLETS
City Manager Plan, Story of the
10 cents each, $7.00 per hundred
City Manager Plan at Work (Representative opinions)
10 cents each, $7.00 per hundred
County Manager Plan 10 cents each, $7.00 per hundred
Short Ballot 10 cents each, $7.00 per hundred
Administrative Consolidation in State Governments ... $ .35
Administrative Reorganization in Illinois ...............2 5
Airports as a Factor in City Planning....................25
Assessment of Real Estate ...............................25
Buildings, Fitz-Elwynes Assize of ......................25
Charter Proposals for Norwood, Mass......................25
City Manager Government in Cleveland, Five Years of......25
City Plan, Law of the ...................................25
Electric Light and Power as a Public Utility ............25
Electricity in Great Britain ............................25
Employment Management in the Municipal Civil Service .. .25
Excess Condemnation, Why We Need ........................25
Franchises, Public Utility ..............................35
Gasoline Taxes in the United States, Administration of...25
German Cities Since the Revolution of 1918 ..............25
Land Subdivisions and the City Plan .....................25
Model Bond Law ..........................................25
Model Budget Law ........................................25
Model City Charter ......................................50
Model County Manager Law ................................25
Model Election System ...................................35
Model Registration System ...............................35
Model State Constitution ................................25
Municipal Revenue, Minor Street Privileges as a Source
of .................................................25
Municipal Salaries Under the Changing Price Level........25
New York City Board of Estimate and Apportionment........25
Special Assessment for Public Improvements ..............25
State Parks (illustrated) ...............................25
Water Power Situation, New York .........................25
BOOKS
City Manager Charters, Loose-leaf Digest of ......... $7.00
City Planning ......................<................ 3.50
County, The .......................................... 2.00
Excess Condemnation .................................. 3.00
Government of Metropolitan Areas...................... 3.50
Initiative, Referendum and Recall .................... 2.75
Merit System in Government ........................... 1.00
Municipal Program, A New ............................. 3.00
Presidents Removal Power Under the Constitution ..... 1.50
Public Borrowing ..................................... 2.O0


National Municipal League
261 Broadway, New York
Established 1894. Incorporated 1923
President_____________Richard S. Childs
Secretary_________________Russell Forbes
Public Relations SecretaryHoward P. Jones
Treasurer...........Carl H. Pforzheimer
Editor of National Municipal Review
H. W. Dodds
If you are interested in this kind of thing
and would like to keep in touch with and
help along the movement for the city mana-
ger plan and other good civic movements,
too, such as city planning, zoning, county
managers, budgets, short ballot, state ad-
ministrative reorganizations, civil service re-
form, municipal home rule, election law re-
form, traction control, initiative referendum
and recall, etc., etc., you ought to join the
National Municipal League, $5.00 a year.
Members receive the National Municipal
Review each month. Sample copy free on re-
quest.