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desire. If he does not carry out the policy which he is expected to support, or fails to come up to the standards set by his constituents, he is turned out at the expiration of his term (which ought theoretically to be a short one in order to give the people a chance to express their judgment on the officer with great frequency), and some one who more nearly represents the electorate is chosen in his stead. Thus in the long run representative democracy triumphs and popular control is maintained. To question the essential soundness of this view is deemed petty treason by most politicians, and the doubter is met with the firm assertion that the people may be trusted to elect any officer, local, state, or national
an assertion which quite overlooks the fundamental fact that electing all of them together is an entirely different matter from electing any one of them.
The way in which the multiplicity of elective offices has overburdened the voter until his control has broken down can best be illustrated by concrete examples, which bring home the details of the voters' task. Take, for example, the ballot for the thirteenth and thirty-fourth wards of the sixth congressional district of Chicago in 1906.1 It is two feet and two inches by eighteen and one-half inches; and it contains 334 names distributed with more or less evenness as candidates for the following offices:
State treasurer, state superintendent of public instruction, trustees of the University of Illinois, representatives in Congress, state senator, representatives in the state assembly, sheriff, county treasurer, county clerk, clerk of the probate court, clerk of the criminal court, clerk of the circuit court, county superintendent of schools, judge of the county court, judge of the probate court, members of the board of assessors, member of the board of review, president of the board of county commissioners, county commissioners (ten to be elected on general ticket), trustees of the sanitary district of Chicago (three to be elected), clerk of the municipal court, bailiff of the municipal court, chief justice of the municipal court, judges of the municipal court (nine to be elected), judges of the municipal court for the four-year term (nine to be elected), judges of the municipal court for the two-year term (nine to be elected).
In Sioux City, Iowa, the following nine elections were held in 1908:
1 Kindly furnished to the author by Professor J. W. Garner of the University of Illinois.
January 21. Special election on the commission plan of gevern
February 24. City primary. Regular biennial election. Candidates nominated for eighteen city offices.
March 9. School election. Regular annual. school treasurer elected. A tax proposition to for a schoolhouse fund also voted on.
Two directors and a appropriate $60,000
March 30. City election. Regular biennial. Eight officers and a council of ten elected, each voter voting for eleven candidates.
May 28. Special election on traction franchise. Franchise defeated.
June 2. Regular biennial election. Candidates nominated for twenty-eight different national, state, and local offices.
August 11. Second special election on traction franchise. November 3. General election. Regular. Forty-three officials voted for, including thirteen presidential electors, twelve state officers, one congressman, one state senator, two state representatives, nine county and five township officers. Amendment to state constitution also voted on.
November 17. Special election on the Perry Creek and the Bacon Creek conduit and the gas franchise.'
Surely the people of the United States believe, with the inhabitants of Lilliput, "that the common size of human understandings is fitted to some station or other, and that Providence never intended to make the management of public affairs a mystery."
Public control must go behind the elections to the primaries, for, as everybody knows, whoever controls the primaries controls the strategic point in our whole election system. Nevertheless, we find that the primaries, whether under the convention or direct nomination systems, are, if possible, more complicated than the election machinery. If all of the voters, moved by the appeals of the good government people and stung by the taunts of the bosses, were to appear at the primaries of their parties, they would not be able to change the actual operation of the nomination system; for the preliminary work of the nominations, owing to the intricacies of the process, must be done by the experts a fact too often overlooked by those who advocate direct nominations as a cure for boss rule. Within the cycle of four years, every party voter in
Digested from an excellent statement by F. H. Garver in the Political Science Review, August, 1909.
every election district in New York City, with minor variations, must vote from one to four times for the following party candidates:
(1) Members of the city committee; (2) members of the county committee; (3) members of the assembly district committee; (4) delegates to an aldermanic district convention; (5) delegates to a municipal court district convention: (6) delegates to a borough convention; (7) delegates to a city convention; (8) delegates to a county convention; (9) delegates to a judicial district convention; (10) delegates to an assembly district convention; (11) delegates to a senatorial district convention; (12) delegates to a congressional district convention; (13) delegates to an assembly district convention.'
The best way to demonstrate the colossal task set before the bewildered New York voter is to describe an actual primary ballot the Democratic ballot for the thirty-second assembly district. It is eight and one-half inches by two feet four inches. It contains the names of 835 candidates: 417 for members of the county general committee, 104 for delegates to the county convention, 40 for delegates to the first district municipal court convention, 65 for delegates to the second district municipal court convention, 104 for delegates to the thirty-second assembly district convention, and 105 for delegates to the thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth, and thirty-sixth aldermanic district conventions. In this ticket the hand of the expert is obvious, for the name of the assembly district leader appears at the top of each list of delegates. It is a slate which the voter "plumps" for one man, the assembly district leader, who does the rest. The 834 other names are entirely useless for political purposes; although the individuals who bear them may have their pride gratified, and the organization may derive a levy from each. Very undemocratic, but thoroughly typical, is the fact that the name of the one man who really counts is set in larger "display" type.
It is not merely capacity to discriminate between a few hundred candidates that we expect from our sovereign voter; he must now do our legislation for us, down to the minutest detail. An excellent example of this relatively new burden is afforded by the blanket ballot submitted to the voters of the city of Portland, Oregon, at the general municipal election held
1Governor Hughes' Plan of Direct Primaries, prepared by the Direct Primaries Association of New York (31 Nassau Street, New York City).
June 7, 1909. In addition to the modest number of twentyfive names of candidates for the respective offices of mayor, auditor, treasurer, city attorney, municipal judge, and councilman at large, there are thirty-five separate legislative propositions on which the elector must vote "yes" or "no." Some of these are important, and their submission is entirely proper, such as the proposition to establish a commission form of government and to make large bond issues for specific purposes. It is difficult, however, to see why the whole electorate should be asked to ponder and determine whether the municipal judge may appoint a clerk at a salary of not less than $100 per month, whether a woman's auxiliary shall be established in connection with the police department, whether the council may fix the salary of the city engineer at not less than $2400 per annum, and whether the rate of interest on special-assessment arrears shall be raised to ten per cent. In view of the serious task imposed on the voters of the city of Portland by this ballot, the interest shown in the election and the results attained are most creditable; they show a high degree of intelligence and capacity. Nevertheless, the burden was too great; and it is authoritatively stated that there is now on foot a movement to restrict the number of referenda, amendments, and other propositions that may be submitted at any one time to a maximum of twelve.
The simple truth is that the theory of popular control through a multiplicity of elective offices does not work in practice. In the case of a large number of officers there is no question of policy involved, because their functions are purely ministerial, prescribed by statutes, and their discharge of these functions is enforceable through the ordinary processes of law. No one has been able to discover up to this time why we should select a Republican state treasurer to serve with a Socialist state veterinarian; and it is because the results of state elections, so far as most of the offices are concerned, are of slight importance to anybody except the political experts, that the public is largely indifferent to the qualifications of the minor candidates. The real failure of the democratic theory, however, is due to the fact that it is absolutely impossible for any considerable number of voters to exercise any discrimination among candidates for a large number of offices. It is a matter of common knowledge that in almost every state election the only candidates who are seriously discussed in
the press in other words, the only candidates upon whose qualifications and record any light is thrown — are those seeking the office of governor and, in the case of municipal elections, that of mayor. The candidates for the minor state offices and, what is infinitely more important, the candidates for the city council and the legislature are generally left in the same fog which envelopes the candidates for the position of coroner or clerk of the municipal district court. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but it applies quite generally throughout the United States.
It is simply absurd to expect the voters to apply any standards of discrimination, that is of control, to more than three or four groups of candidates. This is the testimony of many practical publicists. Mr. Seth Low, in an address at Cornell University in 1887, said, “However possible it may be, as a matter of theory, for every citizen upon election day to cast a ballot with reference to any number of officials based upon discriminating knowledge of the duties of each candidate, as a matter of fact it is not possible for the citizen, whose time is largely engrossed in his private affairs, to obtain the detailed knowledge necessary for such an act." The case has been put even more strongly also by Mr. Clark, "So ignorant are the mass of us, actually and of necessity, about the special qualifications of the several men we vote for, that if the names on the ticket were shifted round, so that the candidate for Congress were running for state engineer, the superintendent of education for coroner, and the sheriff for judge, it would be all the same to us in nine cases out of ten.' President Woodrow Wilson has described the situation with characteristic felicity of phrase:
In the little borough of Princeton, where I live, I vote a ticket of some thirty names, I suppose. I never counted them, but there must be quite that number. Now I am a slightly busy person, and I have never known anything about half the men I was voting for on the tickets that I voted. I attend diligently, so far as I have light, to my political duties in the borough of Princeton and yet I have no personal knowledge of one-half of the persons I am voting for. I couldn't tell you even what business they are engaged in and to say in such circumstances that I am taking part in the government of the borough of Princeton is an absurdity. I am not taking part in it at all. I am going through the motions that I am expected to go through by the
1C. C. P. Clark, The Machine Abolished, p. 86.