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popular vote. It is obvious that a mandate for change confronts us a mandate so clear that to ignore it would be to deny our role as representatives of the people.
The reason for the strong public sentiment favoring electoral reform stems from the uncertainties engendered by the closeness of recent presidential elections, in which the people have witnessed the near possibility of a candidate winning the Presidency by capturing a majority of the electoral votes, while his principal opponent garners the largest number of popular votes. Never in recent times, has this anomaly been brought so close to home as in the elections of 1968.
As the American people watched on their television screens through the night of November 5 and into the morning of November 6, the possibility of one candidate receiving the most votes of the people, while another gained the White House, came near to becoming reality.
It had happened before. In 1876, Samuel J. Tilden received a majority of 250,000 votes over his opponent, and yet was denied the Presidency, which fell into the hands of Rutherford B. Hayes by one electoral vote. It happened again in 1888, when Grover Cleveland received 100,000 more popular votes than did Benjamin Harrison and yet, by an electoral vote of 233 to 168, Harrison became President.
The fact that a man not receiving the largest number of popular votes can nevertheless be elected President, is, in itself, enough to justify electoral reform. It is a contradiction of the sovereign right of the people to govern themselves.
But 1968 did not only expose again the direct defect in our electoral process which allows one man to claim the popular vote and another the Presidency. It also made clear that, under the present system, there exists no guarantee that electors who have held themselves out to the people as supporting a given presidential candidate will, in fact, vote for the candidate to whom they pledged their support.
Originally, as we all know, electors were to be outstanding citizens from the various States. They were to be elected directly by the people for the purpose of choosing the President. Presumably, the electors were to be of such caliber that the people could place their trust in them to select a qualified leader for the Nation. But the system never worked as originally intended.
The birth of political parties, an eventuality not foreseen by the Founding Fathers, quickly reduced the role of the presidential elector to one of mere ministerial duty. As a result, the electoral college lost its reason for being. Today, when the people vote, they are seldom aware of the names, faces, or personal identity of the electors they select to choose the President. In fact, in a majority of our States, the electors' names are not even placed on the ballot. The people, as a practical matter, are voting for the man they wish for President, not for electors to select him. But because of the archaic system we still must use, the people have no guarantee that their wishes will be carried out. As Congress, itself, interprets the Constitution, a free agency still exists; an elector, if he chooses, may cast his vote as he pleases.
In 1968, we saw it happen. When Dr. Lloyd Bailey, an elector from the State of North Carolina, cast his vote in favor of third party candidate George Wallace, even though he was pledged to support
President Nixon, who had carried his State in the November election, he became one of five electors in our Nation's history to disregard the wishes of the people who selected him. This latest case of a “faithless elector" should give us pause, particularly when we contemplate the potential for mischief in a closely divided electoral college. The very fact that such things can and do happen under the present system further underlines the need for reform.
The popular election amendment before this committee meets these problems headon. By placing the power to elect the President directly in the hands of the people, where it belongs, we would never again need fear the election of a President who lacks even the approval of a plurality. By elimination of the free agency of intervening electors, we abolish the possibility, in a close contest, that our people may be actually disfranchised by the capricious action of faithless men.
Moreover, the proposed amendment is in harmony with the historic trend toward broadening the role of the people in their Government. We have moved, since the time of our creation as a nation, from a system in which only the propertied few had the right to vote to a time when universal suffrage is the rule. This is only proper in a country blessed by the best educated and politically sophisticated electorate on earth. Surely we have reached that stage when the people can be wholly entrusted with the power to directly elect their President and Vice President.
It was not so very long ago, in terms of history, that the 18th amendment became part of our Constitution. That amendment, as we all know, provided for the direct popular election of U.S. Senators. The arguments raised against its adoption were strikingly similar to the ones we hear now being voiced against the current amendment. Since that time, the Senate has not changed its essential character.
It remains the bastion of the States as it was intended to be. It stands not less, but greater in stature, because its legitimacy rests upon the direct vote of the people of the 50 States. If it is best for a Senator to be directly elected by the people of his State, then it must follow that it is best for the President to be directly elected by the people of the Nation.
Coming from a small State, I am well aware of the argument of those who maintain that popular election of the President would deprive the less populous States of the relative mathematical advantage they presently possess in the electoral college. They contend, for example, that Alaskan voters, with three electoral votes, have more power than New Yorkers, with 43, because a much smaller number of Alaskans control the casting of each of their electoral votes than is the case in New York.
This is a classic instance of a case where mathematical ratios distort political reality. For the fact is that the emergence of political parties, which destroyed the original function intended for the presidential elector, also destroyed such advantage as the mathematical ratio of a State's electors to its population (in number equal to each State's sum of Senators and Representatives in Congress) might otherwise have given the smaller States in the electoral college.
With the advent of political parties, it became the practice for the States to cast all their electoral votes for the candidate who carried the largest number of popular votes in the State, regardless of the size of his margin. This “unit rule system" governs to the present day. It has undermined the apparent mathematical advantage of small States in the electoral college. Indeed, populous States, such as New York and California, obtain greater importance than they should, since carrying them—even by the smallest margin-delivers their entire electoral vote to the prevailing candidate. Thus, these large States have come to wield a disproportionate influence over our public policy.
At the present time, it takes 270 electors to compose a majority of the electoral college. That number of electors can be secured by carrying as few as a dozen of the largest States. It has, therefore, become the practice of our political parties to lavish their attention upon the most populous States in their quest for an electoral majority.
So it is that the present electoral college actually gives the preponderant advantage to the big States. The importance of carrying them, if only by a handful of votes, in order to secure their entire electoral vote, is mandatory. Consequently, the big States have come to dominate our national conventions, unduly influence our party platforms, and exercise an inordinate power over the selection of our national candidates.
On the other hand, if the President were elected by direct popular vote, such States as New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois would not loom so large in the national political picture. A presidential candidate could lose them all by several hundred thousands votes, and easily make up the difference in the Intermountain West. Carrying the big States would no longer be so essential, thus giving the smaller States a better break in the politics of the Nation.
In the final analysis, however, it is not for the purpose of securing any advantage for the smaller States, but rather to do equity to all, that I favor the abolishment of the electoral college.
Under the direct popular vote amendment, all of our people would be given the same treatment. Different weights would no longer attach to the votes cast by the citizens of one State, as compared to those of another; no State would command special influence or advantage; each voter would stand equal with every other.
As the President of the United States represents all Americans, let us take the action that will allow all Americans equally to choose the President.
I think it is most appropriate to welcome back before the subcommittee one of our colleagues who has given a considerable amount of attention to this subject. He has taken the time to give us his advice and counsel previously on this subject and we are glad to have him back with us again.
Senator Holland, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. I know from past experience that your presentations are learned and well throughout. We have had some friendly discussions over the subject, and I trust we will this morning.
STATEMENT OF HON. SPESSARD L. HOLLAND, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF FLORIDA Senator HOLLAND. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate once again the courtesy of this committee on affording me the opportunity of testifying on the several resolutions pending before the committee to amend the Constitution relative to the election of the President and Vice President.
This committee is well aware of the fact that I introduced resolutions in the 89th and 90th Congresses similar to Senate Joint Resolution 4 which I introduced in this, the 91st Congress, since I testified before the committee on February 28, 1966 and on July 12, 1967.
I feel very strongly that reform of the present system is greatly needed and I endorse the sentiments expressed by President Johnson in his special message to the Congress on January 20, 1966, that there is a great need to reform the electoral college system, although, in my humble judgment, the President's recommendations did not go nearly far enough. To a degree, I also endorse the proposal of President Nixon as presented in his message to the Congress on February 20, 1969, in that he made it clear that he believes that both the proportional and district election plans are preferable to the popular election plan.
A change in the constitutional method of selecting a President and Vice President is long overdue. In an era of tension and the possibility of nuclear warfare we cannot for a moment again consider the possibility of a deadlock among the candidates for President and Vice President such as could have resulted in the past election, leaving a vacuum in national leadership and the possibility of not having a President or Vice President for an indefinite period. We cannot for a moment permit such a situation to occur in the election to the most important leadership in the world.
I strongly feel the electoral vote of a State should not be arbitrarily counted as a whole in favor of the candidate for President or Vice President who receives, in that State, the highest number of individual votes. This method of selection, the winner-take-all system, successfully disenfranchises millions of U.S. citizens and denies them the right to have their votes weighed and counted in the choice of President and Vice President.
The present system of electing the President and Vice President is governed by article II, section I and the 12th amendment to the Constitution and is still unchanged by the addition of the 23d amendment adding the District of Columbia electors. These sections provide that the President and Vice President shall be chosen by electors appointed by each State in a manner directed by its legislature, each State having the same number of electors as the total number of its Members of Congress in both Houses.
This system was agreed upon by the writers of our Constitution for two basic reasons: first, the electors should actually choose the President and Vice President because of their greater knowledge of public affairs than the populate as a whole had at that time and second, in order to protect the smaller States, each State should have two electors representing its Senators, based on its status as a State, in addition to the number of electors, representing its members in the House of Representatives, based on its population.
In this day of much better communications and much greater understanding of public affairs by the average citizen there is no further reason or justification for continuing the presidential electors as such or the electoral college. Under present conditions it is much sounder to let the voters themselves express their preference for President and Vice President in a binding way rather than to delegate their power of election to other individuals.
However it is interesting to note that the same reasons that existed at the time of the adoption of the constitution in 1788 and at the time of the adoption of the 12th amendment in 1804 for the fixing of the number of electors of each State on the basis which included all of their representation in the U.S. Congress, that is, both Senators and Representatives, still exist in even greater degree and operate as strong arguments against the abandonment of the constitutional method of fixing the weight of each State in presidential elections. These reasons were and are:
(1) the vast difference in population of the several States; and
(2) the zealous retention in the States of many elements of sovereignty. The census of 1790 which occurred shortly after the adoption of the Constitution and the beginning of our Federal Government in 1789, showed the population of Delaware at 59,096 and of Rhode Island at 68,825. These were the two smallest of the original States. The same census of 1790 showed the population of the two largest States as follows: Virginia, 880,200; and Pennsylvania, 602,365. Assuming that these statistics reflect accurately the relative population of the States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, it thus appears that Virginia then had more than 14 times the population of Delaware and approximately 13 times the population of Rhode Island. Pennsylvania had more than 10 times the population of Delaware. Practically the same disparity of population is reflected by the census of 1800, taken shortly prior to the adoption of the 12th amendment in 1804, which did not disturb the setup of the electoral college.
By the 1960 U.S. census, the population of the then largest State, New York, was 16,782,304, and the population of the second largest State California, was 15,717,204. These largest States compared with the smallest States as follows: Alaska had 226,167; Nevada had 285,278. Thus New York had more than 70 times the population of Alaska. It is clear that the disparity in population between the largest and smallest State in 1960 was much greater than was the disparity between the largest and smallest State at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and also at the time of the adoption of the 12th amendment in 1804.
Furthermore, I cannot believe that either the Congress or the American people are any less conscious at this time than were the Founding Fathers of the necessity for preserving the full weight of the States as separate, sovereign units of government which have retained and preserved for themselves many elements of their sovereignty and which are entitled now, as they were in the early days of the Republic, to the retention of their two votes in the U.S. Senate and the counting of their two Senators with their Representatives to make up the total number of their electors to whom they are entitled in the selection of the President and Vice President. To put the presidential election
Ig that these starginia, 880,200; a population of the two