« ZurückWeiter »
be elected entirely by single districts. The corrective tendencies of large districts each electing several candidates have not been recog. nized by the commission, and no provision is made for the election at large of any other member than the president.
Governor's Message. In his annual message to the legislature, Governor Odell urged the desirability of greater economy in the affairs of New York City, pointing out particularly the extravagant remuneration of certain county officers within the city; recommended “the substitution of a single-headed police commission for the city of New York, such commissioner to be the chief of the police of the city, to be appointed by the mayor, and subject to removal either by the mayor or the governor, and that the present office of a separate chief of police be abolished "; and advised the enactment of laws that would enable the city of New York to control its own water supply, and that would give the city “the same rights that are afforded other municipalities for securing an additional water supply.”
The Municipal Campaign. The lines upon which the municipal campaign culminating in the election next November will be conducted have not yet been laid down. The Citizens' Union, the principal campaigning body, will hold a convention in April. The convention is expected to arrange for the appointment of a citizens' committee of seventy, to conduct the independent campaign.!
St. Louis. —State Legislation. The recent municipal campaign has again forcibly called attention to what appears to be a systematic attempt to corrupt the ballot in St. Louis. The election frauds which have been of late carried on led to a presentment by the February Grand Jury which said, among other things: “We cannot conceive of a more serious state of affairs than that which existed in this city at the time of the election in November, and which we believe still exists to a very great extent." It is the belief of many that the wholesale corruption of the ballot thus indicated is the legitimate result of special legislation enacted by the state legislature with the deliberate purpose of changing the political complexion of St. Louis, which has for some time been republican, while the state is always strongly democratic.
Iu 1899 the state legislature enacted for cities having a population of over 300,000 (i. e. for St. Louis) a new election law and a new police law. The election law known as the Nesbit law was to a great extent a re-enactment, but it contained several provisions which when taken together were calculated to excite suspicion. These provisions, briefly stated, were as follows: (1) The governor was given the power of 1 Contributed by James W. Pryor, Esq. Contributed by Professor Robert F. Hoxie, Washington University, St. Louis.
appointing all the members of the board of election commissioners, which board, by a majority vote, was authorized to appoint all election judges and clerks. (2) The law allowed city-hall registration under the supervision of a clerical force appointed by the board of commissioners, and instead of providing for the posting of the published lists a sufficient time before election, it was so worded that lists could be obtained only on demand. (3) The power of the board of commissioners over registration was made complete by constituting it a court of appeals to decide all cases where registration was challenged. (4) The judges appointed by the commissioners were to have, of course, immediate authority over voting. They were to decide cases of challenge at the polls, and were authorized to call upon the police to enforce their decisions, while the law removed the specific penalties previously placed upon police interference with legal voters; and (5) to coniplete the authority of the board of commissioners over voting, it was constituted a tribunal for deciding all cases arising out of fraudulent voting.
The police law, passed at the same session as the Nesbit law, served to insure that policemen in sufficient numbers to enforce the orders of the judges of elections, and of the right persuasion, should be at the registration and polling places. This bill created a board of four police commissioners to be appointed by the governor (the mayor of the city to be an ex-officio member), which was to have power to appoint an indefinite number of policemen, and it was made unlawful for the city to refuse payment to any or all policemen whom the board of commissioners might appoint.
It is evident that the provisions of these two laws just stated, if unchecked, made it practically possible for the dominant party, through the boards of election and police commissioners, to perpetrate unlimited fraud, both in registration and in voting. As a matter of fact, the only checks actually placed upon the power of the dominant party to perpetrate fraud in registration and in voting were the simple provisions that one of the board of election commissioners appointed by the governor and half of the judges and clerks appointed by the election commissioners should be members of the political opposition. The actual result is what might have been expected. The governor evaded the limitation put upon his appointing power, and through a partisan board, partisan judges, partisan clerks, and a partisan police, election frauds were committed in St. Louis that would be considered disgraceful in New York under Tammany control. The indignation aroused by the wholesale corruption at the November election has forced the legislature during the last session to amend the Nesbit law. The amendments, however, fail to eliminate the essentially weak points of the law, and St. Louis has before her a hard struggle for home rule and purity of elections.
Baltimore.-The Maryland Ballot Law. The Maryland Legislature in a special session of seventeen legislative days, lasting from March 6 to 28, passed new ballot and election laws, which, it is claimed, will disfranchise from 40,000 to 60,000 voters. The laws of the session have not yet been officially printed, but from the newspaper accounts the following facts are gathered : The old form of official ballots placed the names of candidates in parallel party columns, with the party name and emblem at the top, and the voter who could not read, was ableat least to vote a straight ticket by putting his cross-mark beside the picture of Lincoln or Jackson ; an illiterate could demand that the two election clerks enter the polling booth and mark his ballot according to the voter's directions; and a person once legally a resident of the state and not voting elsewhere could return to the state and exercise the right of suffrage although not actually an inhabitant of the state.
The new laws provide for a ballot modelled after that adopted by Massachusetts in the act of 1898; the names of the candidates are arranged in alphabetical order under the name of each office, with the name of the party printed beside that of the candidate, but party emblems are forbidden. The voter must mark each candidate separately, the old straight ticket possibility of course disappearing with the adoption of an alphabetical arrangement; and unless the voter is physically unable to mark his ballot he may not receive assistance from the election officials. Ballots improperly marked are not to be interpreted according to the intention of the voter, as was done under the old law, but to be thrown out altogether. Further, a more stringent system of registration was adopted in order to cut out some of the non-resident voters. In addition to the ballot and registration provisions, the legislature also passed a law for the taking of a new census of the state, claiming huge frauds by the national Republican census-takers in the interest of their own party; and acts for the redistricting of Baltimore and for the erection of a Baltimore city sewer commission which will have the charge of public works, it is said, amounting in value to $20,000,000.
This new election legislation does not expressly impose an educational qualification as does the Massachusetts act, but the complicated form of the ballot amounts to such a restriction. It is admitted by both parties that the new legislation will disfranchise many of the present voters, perhaps to the number of 50,000, of whom by far the larger part will be negroes. The Republicans, in an appeal to the people of the state, claim that the entire legislation of this session is 1 See also ANNALS, March, 1901, p. 176.
a party measure, aiming through negro disfranchisement, partial registration, party census-taking, gerrymandering, and a partisan sewer commission, to maintain the Democrats in power. The Democrats in turn criticise the national census of the state; claim that the old election law really lends itself to election bribery, and that the Republicans bring into the state at election times thousands of non-residents; and call the present districting act for Baltimore (passed in 1898) as an outrageous fraud, which the new districting measure will remedy. To the objection that the laws will disfranchise many voters, the Democrats reply that Maryland has the best school system south of Pennsylvania, and if the negroes are uneducated, it is their own fault; while the disfranchised whites must be sacrificed for the general wel. fare of the state. 1
Minneapolis. —New Charler. The proposed new charter, noticed in the ANNALS for November last, was rejected at the polls by a decisive majority. The total vote upon the proposition was so small that the charter could not have been put into operation had the majority been the other way. The chief influences contributing to the defeat of the proposition appear to have been (1) the opposition of organized labor, which claimed that its interests were not sufficiently secured ; (2) the opposition of politicians bidding for the support of the charter's real opponents; (3) the indifference of voters who were too much absorbed in the other issues of the election to give any thought to the charter question. The prospect for securing in the near future, a new charter under the present statute, appears very dubious ; apparently the requisite total vote upon the proposition cannot be secured at a general election, and a special election finds little favor on account of the expense involved. An attempt is being made to secure a few features of the rejected charter, e.g., the merit system in the police department, by action of the state legislature.
New Primary Law.-Owing to the Republican landslide the last election did not afford a satisfactory test of the influence of the new nomination system upon the subsequent election. The Republican ticket carried several objectioanble candidates, whose defeat might have been expected in a fairly close election under the old system of nominations. All of them were elected, but it is impossible to determine whether their success was due exclusively to the landslide or to the landslide plus the influence of the new nomination system. Some close observers believe that the tendency of the new system is to carry through the whole party ticket, regardless of its personnel ; the voters argue, say these observers, that the nominations having been made by
1 Contributed by Albert E. McKinley, Ph. D., Philadelphia.
the party, not by the politicians, that fact absolves them from any obligations to inquire into the qualifications of the party candidates. The vote obtained by some of the objectionable candidates (for they ran behind their ticket less than was expected) would seem to sustain this view, but nothing certain can be determined until there is a closer election. Several propositions for the amendment of the primary law are now before the state legislature. All of them relate to the details of the law; there is no suggestion of altering its fundamental principles. The greater number of these propositions are intended to prevent the members of one political party from participating in the selection of the nominees of the other party. In the last primary election, as was perhaps inevitable at the first trial of the system, the rules for voting and counting were not strictly observed ; in consequence there is a widespread belief that at least one of the Republican nominees was selected by the aid of Democratic votes. The proposed amendments look to the abolition of this defect in the law.
Mayoralty Contest.—The late mayoralty contest presented an interesting phenomenon for the student of municipal government. In addition to the regular Republican and Democratic nominees there was an independent candidate of exceptional fitness and backed by powerful influences of the “good government” sort. Both of the regular party nominees were objectionable to large sections of their parties and the independent candidate was able to obtain written pledges of support from over 10,000 voters, i. e., from about thirty per cent of the electorate. Yet on election day the independent candidate obtained only a little over 8,000 votes and stood third in the race. The result would seem to demonstrate that in this city no independent candidate can compete successfully with regular party nominees at an election where local questions are liable to be influenced by state and national issues.
Spoils System.-Minneapolis has recently witnessed an application of the spoils principle on a scale seldom, if ever, equaled in recent municipal history. On the day of his inauguration the new Republic can mayor removed 105 out of 210 members of the police force and appointed new men in their places. No charges against the removed men were made public; the open and avowed purpose was to make the force Republican; the real purpose, it is generally believed, was to make the police force an effective agency for promoting the personal political interests of the mayor,
Day Labor.—During the summer of 1900 all the city paving was laid by day labor. The city engineer reports that the experiment was eminently satisfactory. The men worked but eight hours per day and were paid the maximum market rates of wages, yet the cost per yard