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motive at all for fraud and its existence will be rendered impossible.
But I am quite certain that when the free vote or some similar plan of reform shall come into general use, secret voting will be entirely dispensed with because it will no longer be necessary to the protection of the voter against intimidation and other forms of improper influence. The ballot may remain to us, but it will be an open one--probably in the slip-ticket form—and a large amount of mystery, intrigue, deception and meanness will be expelled from elections. And, by numbering the ballots when voted, or by other means easily applied, it will be possible to prove afterwards beyond dispute for whom any voter cast his votes. Possibly we may come at last to a plan of registering votes which will still more completely or conveniently enable us to classify voters and determine for whom they voted. At all events, by dispensing with the secret vote we shall possess greater facilities than now for the proper polling of votes at special elections.
LOCAL USE OF REFORMED VOTING. The free vote was first used in an election at Bloomsburg, in this State, on the 12th of April last, when six persons were to be chosen members of the town Council for the ensuing year. The result was that three Democrats and three Republicans were elected. It was again used in the same town on the second Tuesday of the present month in the choice of Constables, Assessors, Assistant Assessors, School Directors, and Town Auditors. Altogether, at the
two town elections, seventeen officers have been chosen under the new plan, and they are all good men and are fairly divided between parties. Not one person among the whole six hundred voters of the town is known to have expressed himself against the change, or is believed to be desirous of returning to the old and unfair majority vote. In short, the change has been completely satisfactory and is strongly endorsed by public opinion.
Directors of the Poor for the Bloom Poor District in Columbia county (the district containing one thousand two hundred voters) were also chosen at the October election under the new plan and in a satisfactory manner. The majority elected two and the minority one.
In the county of Northumberland, in Sunbury, Northumberland and other boroughs, the new plan was also tried at the recent election (principally in the choice of Councilmen) and with good and satisfactory results.
Certain advantages of the new plan not foreseen or not foreseen distinctly, appeared in these local elections. In the first place, they showed that the number of candidates at an election will be greatly reduced by the new plan; that in most cases no more persons will run than can be elected, because each party will nominate only the number it has votes to elect. Next, it was shown that blunders in nomination, either as to the number of candidates to be supported or as to individual nominations, could be readily and certainly corrected by the voters at the legal election. Also, that bolting (as it is called) is deprived to a great extent of its mis
chievous character, bolters being only able to represent themselves by their own votes when their number is adequate, without being able to turn an election upside down or prevent a just division of the offices between parties. It was also clearly shown at those elections that the preparation, polling, counting, and return of fractional votes, in cases where their use was found desirable, was quite simple and convenient, occasioning no difficulty, uncertainty or confusion.
PROGRESS OF REFORM.
The State of New York a few years since used the limited vote in choosing thirty-two delegates at large to her Constitutional Convention. No voter was allowed to vote for more than sixteen. More recently she chose the six Associate Judges of her highest court on the same principle; no voter was allowed to vote for more than four. But though these were steps in the right direction and resulted in fuller representation of the people, it must be acknowledged that the limited vote is an imperfect contrivance and not fitted for extensive use. More wisely instructed, the State of Illinois the present year has adopted the free vote, not only for the election of directors or managers of incorporated companies, as before mentioned, but also for the election of Representatives in her Legislature. They will be chosen biennially, commencing with the year 1872, three being elected together from each senatorial district. In this State, in August last, a respectable convention in favor of minority representation was held at Reading. It adopted proper
resolutions and organized committees for future work. The men concerned in that convention and the friends of reform generally in this State, look forward to a Constitutional Convention as the means for securing the main objects they have in view. And they particularly desire that the members of such convention, if one should be called, shall be elected upon a plan of reformed voting, so that the whole people shall be represented in the convention.
Without a convention, however, much can be done. The Legislature has complete power over municipal elections and can reform them at pleasure, and it can also largely improve the representation of the people in the Legislature itself.
In conclusion I will say to all friends of reform, be confident and hopeful of the future. It is well for us “to labor and to wait.” Great changes are best made when made deliberately and with due caution; not in passionate heat, but upon cool conviction. Electoral reforms may come slowly, but they are sure to come, for their necessity grows every year more evident.
DELIVERED IN THE SENATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, ON MONDAY EVENING, MARCH 27, 1871, UPON
THE BILL ENTITLED
"AN ACT FOR THE FURTHER REGULATION OF BOROUGHS," :*
MR. SPEAKER: I came to this Senate to serve during my present term with the intention of devoting myself particularly to the subject of Electoral Reform. I thought that the attention of the Representatives of the people assembled in the Legislature should be directed to some fundamental and searching changes in our electoral system, by which existing abuses shall be checked or prevented in future.
Now, sir, in the first place, I propose to call attention to what has been done heretofore in this State upon this subject of reform, in the direction indicated by the present bill.
INSPECTORS OF ELECTION.
In the Constitutional Convention of 1837–8, Mr. Thomas Earle, of the county of Philadelphia, sub
* The bill upon which the above speech was delivered passed and became a law. Those sections of it which relate to the election of Councilmen, in boronghs, to the support of which the argument of the speech was directed, wi!l be found at page 229 of this volume.