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But the proportional system would encourage candidates to spend most of their time in the traditionally one-party States—whether they be North or South, East or West, Democratic or Republican.
For in the proportional system, the key factor becomes the margin of victory in each State, In 1948, for instance, President Truman carried Georgia by enough popular votes to lead Governor Dewey there by five electoral votes, had a proportional plan been in effect, Dewey carried New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and Connecticut. But his margins in those States were small—those six States put together would not have enabled Dewey to offset Truman's lead of five electoral votes that he would have picked up in Georgia alone. The implication is clear.
The big States tend to have healthy and strong two-party systems and I think we all can agree on the virtues of this political competition which assures us public officials who are responsive to the people. A proportional system would tend to destroy all that. Within the parties themselves, the more important States would become those producing the greatest margins of victory. The big States would no longer have a big voice because the margins of victory they produced might be smaller than that of the traditional one-party States.
Another proposal is the district plan—that is, a system in which each elector would be named according to how each district voted for a candidate. This plan is similarly dangerous. In 1964, there were two districts in Illinois, each voting about 180,000 people. In one of these districts, President Johnson polled about 90 per cent of the votes taking a lead of about 140.000. In the other district. Senator Goldwater won by fewer than 80 votes. Under the district system, the two men each would have received one electoral vote even though Johnson was out front in the popular vote by almost 140,000. Under this plan, Nixon would have won easily over Kennedy in 1960, even though Kennedy had more popular votes than Nixon.”
If a district plan were adopted, I dread to think of the Pandora's Box of gerrymandering that would result. Special presidential districts could be drawn every four years. Sooner or later, no matter how sincere the motives of the framers of this proposal may be, legislatures throughout the land would be drawing districts to favor not only congressional candidates in their own States, but to favor the national standard bearer of the party in power in each of those States. This is precisely what the Democratic-controlled Michigan legislature had in mind in 1892 when it decided to have electors named on a district-by-district basis, rather than at large.
The plan most often suggested to replace our State-by-State winner-take-all system is the direct popular election. On the surface, this appears to be the ideal solution, the natural answer for a democratic society.
But I would like to suggest that there are today at least as many obstacles to adoption of this idea as there were when the Framers of the Constitution considered it in 1787.
First, we must understand that the nature of our government is federal. Cer: tain powers were delegated by the several States to the Federal government; other powers were reserved to the States. In agreeing to form our union, the one thing most jealously guarded by each of the original States was the right to a guaranteed minimum voice in the ('ongress and in the choice of a national leader.
Each State, regardless of its population, was guaranteed two members of the Senate--no more, no less. And each State, regardless of its population, was guaranteed one member in the House of Representatives. Because the size of the House of Representatives remains relatively fixed, and because each State is equal in the Senate, the smaller States have a proportionately larger voice in relation to their population. And, because the number of electoral votes accorded to each State is equal to its number of Senators and Representatives, the smaller States have a proportionately larger voice in the determination of who is elected President. As I illustrated a moment ago, the danger of this system resulting in a choice of President who receives fewer votes than his nearest opponent is extremely slight. And there is considerable advantage in not demanding that a President receive an absolute majority of the popular votes. A requirement of that kind could lead to runoff elections, and the nation would be in doubt for months as to the identity of its next President.
But the cold, realistic fact of the matter is that because of our traditional system, 35 States and the District of Columbia enjoy a proportional advantage
2 This popular vote for Kennedy in 1960 is not known exactly, because of the confused situation on the Alabama ballot. See tabulation, p. 93.--Editor,
in the electoral-vote system; that is, these States have a greater proportional voice in determining the outcome of a presidential election than they would if the election were conducted on the basis of direct popular vote.
Thus, the influence of these States would decline-both nationally and within their party organizations-if the present system were scrapped in favor of the direct popular vote. I would submit that with this many States in jeopardy of declining political influence, the chances of the Congress approving the direct popular election are, putting it optimistically, extremely slim-if not hopeless.
I would return to another concern of the Framers of the Constitution when they considered the direct popular election : the unlikelihood of any candidate receiving a majority. If we had a direct popular election, would we require that the winning candidate receive more than 50 per cent of the total vote? If we did, then we face the expense and uncertainty of runoff elections not on a statewide basis, but on a national basis. If we did not, then where would we set the figure? Forty-five per cent ? Forty per cent ? Less? Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860 with 39.8 per cent of the popular votes. But he received a majority of the electoral votes and became one of the greatest Presi. dents in our history. Had there been a runoff, he probably would have been defeated-and perhaps there would be no union today.
The obvious answer is that to have a direct popular election, we would have to require the winning candidate to secure either a fixed percentage of the votes, or simply to receive the greatest number of votes from among all the candidates. In either case, we would be risking taking a giant step down the road toward splinter parties, toward the multi-party mess that has plagued many European countries for years and which prevented the emergence of political stability.
The two-party system is too important, too unique, too great a rudder of stability to risk for the sake of the theoretical perfection of the direct popular vote.
I stand with political philosophers like Edmund Burke who said, “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." What Burke was saying is that we must always seek to balance innovation with preservation; exploration with caution; and promulgation of the new with derivation from the old.
In 1956, a man stood on the floor of the United States Senate to argue against radical departure from our traditional system of electing the President. This is what he said:
“Today, we have a clearly federal system of electing our President, under which the States act as units. Today, we have the two-party system, under which third parties and splinter parties are effectively discouraged from playing more than a negligible role. Today, we have a system which-in all but one instance throughout our history-has given us Presidents elected by a plurality of the popular vote. . . . And today we have an electoral vote system which gives both large States and small States certain advantages and disadvantages that offset each other.
"Now it is proposed that we change all this. What the effects of these various changes will be on the federal system, the two-party system, the popular plurality system, and the large-State, small-State checks-and-balances system, no one knows. Nevertheless, it is proposed to exchange this system—under which we have, on the whole, obtained able Presidents capable of meeting the increased demands upon our Executive--for an unknown, untried, but obviously precarious system.
The Senator was John Fitzgerald Kennedy who four years later would be elected President of the United States with more votes than his opponent, but with less than 50 per cent of the popular votes cast.
Senate Joint Resolution 58 provides for the elimination of electors, who have proven troublesome to carrying out the will of the people, and whose trend toward independence presents a clear and present danger to American tradition. But Senate Joint Resolution 58 would retain the tradition of the State-by-State unit vote which, though imperfect, has worked well and is, in my opinion, far safer than any of the proposed alternatives to the maintenance and development of American tradition.
The resolution also provides a more equitable plan of electing a President in the event no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes. At present, the House of Representatives elects a President in this situation—but each State may cast only one vote. This means that the voice of our largest State would have no greater weight than that of our smallest. This, I believe, goes well beyond the principle of large-State, small-State check-and-balance and grants too much influence to too few people.
Therefore, we propose a joint session of the House and the Senate in whicb each Member would cast one vote to select the President from among the three candidates receiving the greatest number of electoral votes.
We further propose in this resolution that in the event of the death of the President-elect between the day of the national election and the day on which the Congress certifies the electoral votes, the Vice President-elect shall be entitled to the electoral votes which otherwise would have been awarded to the President-elect. This is the same procedure now provided in the Constitution in the event the President-elect should die between the time Congress certifies the electoral votes and the day of the inauguration.
I want to assure my colleagues that the chair shall give earnest consideration to any and all testimony before this committee. The fact that Senate Joint Resolution 58 bears my name should not be construed as meaning my mind is closed to further argument.
I simply have stated my beliefs based on my study of the various factors weighed in the formulation of Senate Joint Resolution 58.
If it can be shown that the unit system presents greater danger to the nation than alternative procedures, I shall gladly alter my position. If it can be shown that the retention of electors is beneficial to the Nation, I shall gladly join those who would retain them.
I would like to close with this final thought: Let us not detest all change. But let us not be so enamored of change that we automatically equate it with progress.
Senator Bays. The colleague from Nebraska has a statement before recognizing our first witness this morning.
Senator HRUSKA. Mr. Chairman, I will insert in the record at this point a statement which I have prepared and thereby we will get to the distinguished Senator from Florida in a hurry because I know he has words of great encouragement and wisdom for us today. So I will submit this statement for the record by way of preliminary, Mr. Chairman.
Senator BayH. The record will indicate the statement has been read before the subcommittee, and we will put it in, Mr. Reporter.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROMAN L. HRUSKA, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF NEBRASKA
Senator HRUSKA. Mr. Chairman, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a need to reform our system of electing Presidents. In these complex times, it is vitally important that there be an accurate expression of the will of the voters not only in the election of those who represent their State, but also in the national elections.
The "general ticket” or unit system which we now have was not comprehended by our founding fathers and is not in keeping with our current belief that each man's voice in the affairs of his government should be maximized. The “winner-take-all” result under the unit system is generally recognized to create a litany of abuses. They can be listed in these general categories: (1) disfranchisement of minority voters in every State, (2) creation of the possibility of minority Presidents, (3) disproportionate attention being paid to pivotal States at the expense of the smaller States, (4) thwarting of the development of the two-party system in “sure" States, (5) magnification of both the temptation for and the effect of vote fraud in closely contested pivotal States and subject the results in whole States to vagaries of accidents of nature, (6) the vesting in minority and pressure groups unwarranted power
in States where the outcome is in doubt.
The problems which have arisen under the unit system point up the need for effective reform and should preclude any thoughts regarding a constitutional amendment which would weld this manner of selecting Presidents into our Constitution. For this reason, this Senator will oppose the approach contained in Senate Joint Resolution 58. Adoption of this resolution would give constitutional cognizance and approval—for the first time in our history—to the “general ticket” system, which gives all of a State's electoral votes to the popular vote winner while totally disregarding the minority vote.
In searching for an appropriate vehicle through which to effect this needed reform, several other approaches have been suggested.
The direct election plan, which is currently offered in Senate Joint Resolution 4, has been generally conceded to be unworkable and undesirable. It flies in the face of the concept of a federated republic for it would completely destroy the State as a political entity and would erase the weighted composition of the electoral college which was established by the authors of the Constitution to equalize the disadvantage under which the smaller States labor in national elections.
As a practical matter, this approach would have little or no chance of ratification because 36 States would lose the added weight in the election of the President, which is provided them under the electoral college system.
Elimination of the “direct vote" concept leaves two other tacks which are available. One is the "Proportional Division of Electoral Votes” suggested by Senate Joint Resolutions 7 and 28. The other is the "District System” contained in Senate Joint Resolution 12 of which I am a cosponsor.
While the proportional approach would seem to be workable, it has disadvantages which make it less desirable than the district system so ably urged by Senator Mundt. The proportional plan would appear to encourage splinter parties as well as work to make the votes of oneparty States more attractive to and sought after by presidential candidates. It could also work a fundamental change in the voting practices within a State.
Senate Joint Resolution 12, on the other hand, would bring about the necessary reform with a minimum of change, and would tend to put every citizen of every State on the same basis in voting to elect a President. It provides that in every State a voter would cast his votes for three, and only three electors, two of them corresponding to his two U.S. Senators, to be elected at large, and one corresponding to his Representative in the House, to be chosen from his district.
The district plan would obviate, to a large extent, every difficulty posed by the existing system of electing Presidents. It would reflect more accurately the popular vote than does the present system. It would encourage two-party activity in the so-called one-party States for each district would have a voice in selecting the President.
This system would provide greater protection for the political power of small and sparsely populated States and areas and make them participants rather than onlookers in our national campaigns and elections. It would also equate the political pressures on the President with those felt by the Congress and result in a more responsive executive branch in the Government. No longer could the presidential candidates ignore large sections of the country nor could they concentrate their efforts in a few pivotal States. There would be the additional benefit that candidates could more nearly be chosen on the basis of merit rather than geography.
Additionally, by preserving the electoral college, the district system would not represent a threat to the role of States in the presidential election or to State control over voting qualifications.
One of the major objections to the district system in the past has been the supposed difficulty which would result from the requirement of independent single-elector districts being established for the selection of the electors. Recent developments would indicate that this question has become largely moot. It would seem appropriate to consider revising Senate Joint Resolution 12 to provide that the single-elector districts would coincide with the congressional districts in each State.
This amendment would now seem feasible for the Supreme Court in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964) held that congressional districts within a State are now required to be substantially equal in population. In response to this opinion the House passed 'H.R. 5505 last session. It requires congressional districts to be compact and to vary not more than 15 percent in population from the average district in the State. While the bill has not yet been acted on by the Senate, it has been ordered reported by the Judiciary Committee. The advancing state of the law is eliminating the possibility of flagrant malapportionment and gerrymandering of congressional districts.
By allowing the election of presidential electors from established districts, Senate Joint Resolution 12 would allow the needed reformation with very little upset in the established election procedures in the States.
Senate Joint Resolution 12 would also change the procedure under which the President and Vice President are elected by the Congress if no major party candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote. At present, in such a contingency, the President is elected by the House with each State entitled to one vote for the presidential candidates with the three highest numbers of electoral votes. If a State's House delegation is evenly split between the two major parties, its vote does not count. This procedure is obviously unfair to the larger States.
Senate Joint Resolution 12 corrects this situation. It provides that, in the event no candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes, Congress shall meet in joint session and elect a President and Vice President. In this joint session, each Senator and Representative would have one vote.
It also provides for the binding of the electors so that they must accurately reflect the popular will of the voters.
Mr. Chairman, it is my hope that Senate Joint Resolution 12 will receive careful consideration by the subcommittee and that it can be favorably reported to the Senate for early action.
Senator Bayh. Senator Ervin also has a statement which he has asked me to place in the record. Since he has a conflicting committee meeting his statement shall also be placed in the record at this point.
STATEMENT OF HON. SAM J. ERVIN, JR., A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OP
Mr. Chairman, as you know, I have joined Senators Dodd, Sparkman, and Saltonstall in sponsoring Senate Joint Resolution 138, to abolish the electoral college and institute a proportional method of casting electoral votes.