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in Wisconsin by Governor LaFollette, but not accepted by the legislature. A modified form of it has been adopted by the State of Washington in 1907. Where there are more than four candidates for a State or congressional office, each voter is required to indicate first and second choice. If no candidate receives 40 per cent. of the total vote, second choices are then counted in and a decision reached in this way.
On the whole, it seems probable that the simple plurality will probably be adopted outside of the Southern States, where peculiar conditions prevail. Experience has shown that this is a satisfactory system, and that it neither destroys nor disrupts the party. The demand for a majority primary or a minimum percentage is generally based on unfounded apprehension, rather than upon reason or experience. It ignores the fact that the number of candidates under the directed primary system is not ordinarily great and that where the number is large the custom soon teaches acquiescence in the nomination of the leading candidate in the primary just as it does in the general election. Originally choice by majority vote only was the general rule, even in elections, but now a plurality is accepted and indeed never challenged. It is likely that the same process of development will take place in the party primary.
74. THE SHORT BALLOT.
Another method of reducing the influence of the politician in elections and of enabling the voter to exercise an intelligent choice through his ballot, is to have fewer elective offices. For a few important officers the average man can vote intelligently; for many unimportant officers he is very apt to vote blindly. In the following selection Mr. R. S. Childs shows how absurd and unnecessary it is to complicate our ballots with the names of so many inconspicuous men: .
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 voting 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 for whom did you vote for Surrogate last time? You don't know? Well, then, whom did you support for State Auditor? For State Treasurer? For Clerk of the Court For Supreme Court Judge? And who is your Alderman? Who represents your district at the State Capitol? Name, please, all the candidates you voted for at the last election. Of course you know the President and the Governor and the Mayor, but there was a long list of minor officers besides. Unless you are active in politics I fear you flunk this examination. If your ballot had by a printer's error omitted the "State Comptroller" entirely, you would probably not have missed it. 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 anything better to do. You need not feel ashamed of it. Your neighbors all did the same; my neighbors did.1 Ex-President Eliot, of Harvard, the "ideal citizen," confessed in a public address recently that he did it too. Philadelphia has even elected imaginary men. It is a typical and universal American attitude. We all vote blindly. The intelligence of the community is not at work on
1 CONFIDENTIAL CENSUS 1
Data collected immediately after the election of 1908.
Do you know the name of the new State Treasurer just elected?
87% said No.
Do you know the name of the present State Treasurer? 75% said No.
Do you know the name of the defeated candidate for
70% said No.
80% said No.
Do you know the name of the Surrogate of this County? 65% said No.
Do you know the name of your Alderman?
Do you know whether your Alderman was one of those who voted against the increase in the Police Force last year?
Are you in active politics?
85% said No.
98% said No.
96% said No.
any of the minor offices on the ballot. The average American citizen never casts a completely intelligent vote.
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 nothing is ever published about the minor candidates.
The gossip around the local headquarters being too onesided to be trusted by a casual inquirer, a deep-working personal acquaintance with politics, involving years of experience and study, becomes necessary before a voter who wants to cast a wholly intelligent ballot can obtain the facts.
This is not 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 the number is still greater. Philadelphia, although smaller than either city, elects more people than either. No newspaper can give publicity to so many candidates or examine properly into their relative merits.
Plainly the voter is overburdened with more questions than he will answer carefully, for it is certain that the average citizen cannot afford the time to fulfill the unreasonable requirements that are now essential to intelligent voting. The voters at the polls are the foundation of a democracy, and the universal and incurable habit of voting blindly constitutes a huge break in that foundation which is serious enough to account for the toppling of the whole structure.
Let us see, then, if we can trace out a connection between blind voting as a cause and misgovernment as the effect.
No one will deny that if nine-tenths of the citizens refrained from voting on election day, the remaining tenth would govern all. And when practically all vote in nine-tenths ignorance and indifference, about the same delegation of power occurs. A remaining fraction who do give enough time to the subject to cast an intelligent ballot take control. That fraction we call "politicians" in our unique American sense of the word. A politician is a "political specialist." He is one who knows more about the voter's political business than
the voter does. He knows, for instance, that the coroner's term will expire in November, and he contributes toward the discussion involved in nominating a successor, whereas the voter hardly knows a coroner is being elected. These politicians come from all classes, and the higher intelligence of the community contributes its full quota. Although they are only a fraction of the electorate, they are a fair average selection, and they would 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 together. Good men who see the organization go wrong on a nomination continue to stay in and to lend their strength, not bolting until moral conditions become intolerable. Were these men not bound by an organization 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 punishment in the alienation of supporters.
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 office-holder who refuses 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 party, 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, that wants it, whatever his reasons, we must placate him or risk disaffection in that district." So appointments and measures lose their original and proper significance and become mere pawns in a chess game of politics which aims to keep "our side" on top. The office-holders themselves may be upright, bribe-proof men—
they usually are, in fact. But their failure to disregard all exigencies of party politics constitutes 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.
By the way, every factor in this sequence is a unique American phenomenon! The long ballot with its variegated list of trivial offices is to be seen nowhere but in the United States. 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, and includes only offices that are of such importance as to attract close scrutiny by the public. To any Englishman or Canadian our long ballot is astonishing and our blind voting appalling. The politicians as a professional class, separate from popular leaders or office-holders, are unknown in other lands, and the very word "politician" has a special meaning of reproach in this country which foreigners do not attach to it. And government of a democracy from behind the scenes by politicians in endless opposition to government by public opinion, is the final unique American phenomenon in the long ballot's train of consequences.
The blind vote of course does not take in the whole ballot. Certain conspicuous offices engage the attention of all of us. 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 candidates are the theme of editorials, and we need take no part in politics to be able to vote with knowledge on certain important issues. We would laugh at an attempt to control our vote on any of these questions where we have opinions of our own. With this independent intelligence always at work upon the major nominations, we secure a higher normal level of conditions. Aldermen we elect who do not represent us, and State Legislatures which obey the influences of unseen powers, but we are apt to speak effectively when it comes to the choice of a conspicuous officer like a President, a Governor, or a Mayor. For Mayor,