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of the constitution or any section of the statutes of the state before being admitted to the privileges of an elector.
In order to exclude negroes from the vote without violating the letter of the federal Constitution, several of the southern states have devised special qualifications for voters. The constitution of Mississippi, for example, provides that the voter must never have been convicted of bribery, burglary, perjury, or anyone of several enumerated offences; and must have paid all the taxes which may have been legally required of him, including the poll tax; and must be able to read any section of the constitution of the state or be able to understand it when read to him, and give a reasonable interpretation thereof. Negroes often have great difficulty in giving a “reasonable” interpretation to the satisfaction of the registration officers.
In Louisiana the voter must demonstrate his ability to read and write, on his application for registration; or if unable to read and write he must be the bona-fide owner of property valued at not less than $300; provided, however, “that no male person who was on January 1, 1867, or on any date prior thereto entitled to vote under the constitution or statutes of any state of the United States wherein he then resided and no son or grandson of any such person not less than twenty-one years of age at the date of the adoption of this constitution and no male person of foreign birth who was naturalized prior to the first day of January, 1898, shall be denied the right to register and vote in this state by reason of his failure to possess the educational or property qualifications prescribed by this constitution.” It will be noted that none of these provisions requiring an educational, property, or family qualification is in contravention of the Fifteenth Amendment, which merely provides that no person shall be disfranchised on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. However, they make the state which imposes them liable to a reduction in representation in Congress under the Fourteenth Amendment.?
The effect of these southern limitations on the negro vote can
Resident and similar qualifications are, of course, required. For the suffrage provisions of the Virginia constitution of 1902 excluding negroes, see Readings, p. 402. An attempt to disfranchise the negroes in Maryland was defeated in the election of November, 1909.
2 See Readings, p. 393; and above, p. 163.
be gathered from the published statistics for South Carolina and Mississippi.' It appears that in those states there were 350,796 adult male negroes in 1900 and that the total Republican vote (in both states) in the national election of that year was only 5443. At a rough guess, perhaps 2000 of this number were cast by white men, and the conclusion must be that about ninetynine negroes out of every hundred failed to vote for President in those states.
Several attempts have been made to test the constitutionality of these suffrage laws, but the Supreme Court of the United States, principally on technical grounds, has been able to avoid coming to a direct decision on the merits of the particular measures. In one of these cases, the plaintiff alleged that the Alabama constitutional restrictions on the suffrage were designed to deprive the negroes of the vote, but the Court answered that a court of equity could not remedy such a wrong; that the court could not, through its officers, take charge of and operate the election machinery of Alabama; and finally concluded “that relief from a great political wrong, if done as alleged, by the people of a state and by the state itself, must be given by them or by the legislative and political departments of the Government of the United States.'
* Mr.J.C. Rose, in the Po ence Review, for November, 1906, p. 20.
Giles v. Harris, 189 U. S. R., 474.
POPULAR CONTROL IN STATE GOVERNMENTS
MORE than half a century ago Carlyle said that whoever had occasion to write or speak in that day must take account of the fact that democracy had arrived; and an eminent English publicist of our time, Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson, has restated the doctrine in a little more concrete form when he says, “Governments in every civilized country are now moving towards the ideal of an expert administration controlled by an alert and intelligent public opinion.” The awakening of this alert and intelligent public opinion is the problem of education in its broadest sense; but in order to make this opinion effective in controlling legislatures and executives it is necessary to devise electoral machinery which will work with as little friction and waste of public spirit as possible.
The Amending System As we have seen, the metes and bounds of state government are set in the constitution, and to enable popular will to alter this fundamental law from time to time, as new conditions arise, some regular legal process of amendment is indispensable. The exact method varies in character and operation from state to state, but there are certain general principles and tendencies which are now well established.
I. In the first place, about two-thirds of the states' provide for amendment by a convention composed of delegates chosen by the voters, and many constitutional lawyers hold that the legislatures of the remaining states can call conventions under their general legislative powers. A few states, including New York, provide that the question whether a constitutional con
1 All except Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Louisiana. See Professor J. W. Garner's article in the American Political Science Review for February, 1907.
vention shall be held must be referred to popular vote at stated intervals; and New York also gives the legislature the power to submit the proposition to call a convention at any time it may see fit. More than one-half of the states, however, merely authorize the legislature to determine, at its discretion, when a constitutional revision is advisable, submit the question to popular vote, and on approval make provision for the election of delegates. Most of these constitutions require an extraordinary majority in the legislature before the proposition of calling a convention can be submitted to the electorate; and some of them, in addition, require the approval of a majority of all those voting at some election. Wherever these two provisions are found in conjunction, it is well-nigh impossible to amend the constitution.
Very few of the state constitutions that provide for amendment through the convention system are explicit as to the methods by which the delegates shall be apportioned and elected. In this regard the constitution of New York is more satisfactory than that of most other states because it goes into greater detail. It provides that three delegates for each senatorial district and fifteen delegates-at-large shall be chosen by the voters, it prescribes the time at which the delegates shall convene; fixes the quorum at a majority; makes some provisions as to procedure; and concludes with the requirement that the constitution or amendments adopted by such convention must be submitted to popular ratification.
II. The second general method of amendment, to be found in all states except New Hampshire, including those which have the convention system as well, is through legislative action ratified by popular vote. In several of the states, as widely separated as Illinois, Kansas, Washington, California, and Mississippi, two-thirds of all the members elected to both houses of the legislature are required to initiate an amendment. A few states, among which are Florida and Ohio, fix the majority at three-fifths; while New York, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin,
Only two commonwealths, Georgia and Maine, authorize the legislature by concurrence of two-thirds of both houses to call a convention without referring the question to popular vote.
* Readings, p. 411. In 1910 a proposition was introduced into the New York legislature providing that a two-thirds vote of both houses (and a repeti
Tennessee, and some other commonwealths require only a simple majority. In about one-third of the states, including Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, Vermont, Indiana, and Oregon, the constitution provides, in addition, that an amendment proposed by one legislature must be approved by the succeeding legislature before being submitted to the people. It is the common practice now to require an approval of only a majority of the popular vote cast on the proposition; but a few commonwealths stipulate that an amendment must receive a majority of all the votes cast at some state election in order to become a law.
III. The third mode of amendment, that of the initiative and referendum, is to be found in several states. For example, an amendment to the constitution of Oregon, ratified in June, 1902, expressly reserves to the people the power to propose amendments to the constitution and to approve or reject the same at the polls independent of the legislative assembly. It provides that eight per cent of the legal voters may propose an amendment by petition, and if the proposal, on its submission to popular ratification, receives a majority of all the votes cast thereon, it becomes a part of the fundamental law of the state. A somewhat similar method is in force in Oklahoma, but fifteen per cent of the voters must sign the petition to initiate a constitutional amendment, whereas only eight per cent are required to propose any ordinary legislative measure. tion of the process) should be required to submit a constitutional amendment to the voters, and that for ratification an amendment must receive a majority vote of the electors voting for members of the legislature. In support of the measure, Mr. Dana, who introduced it, said: “For some time past, amendments to the Constitution have been passed by a very small vote in proportion to the total vote cast. At the last election only 81,517 votes out of a total vote of 318,035 in the City of New York, were cast for the constitutional amendment receiving the greatest number of votes, while in the rest of the state, out of a total of 702,965 votes, only 290,795 were cast for the amendment. This does not by any means express the will and desire of the people.” The proposal was later modified to the effect that any amendment must be approved by at least 30 per cent of the vote for assemblymen.
1 For the Oklahoma system, see Readings, p. 413.