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20 percent of the popular vote and possibly as many as 103 electoral votes, it was not an implausible scheme.
In fact, it had been a subject of great concern to both major party candidates, particularly after it was learned that Wallace's electors had signed notarized oaths pledging them to Wallace "or whomsoever he may direct." At one point late in the campaign, Humphrey challenged Nixon to join him in a public pledge that neither would bargain for the Wallace electoral votes. Nixon, for his part, asked Humphrey to agree to a plan that would insure that the popular vote winner was chosen President.
The alternative to a bargain with Wallace, however, was no more in keeping with our democratic traditions and sense of fair play. It was an election in the House of Representatives from among the top three candidates, with each State having one vote and tied delegations forfeiting their votes.
A Nixon electoral majority based on a narrow popular vote victory meant, of course, that none of these dangerous contingencies would occur. But something did occur somewhat unexpectedly that, once again, raised serious doubts as to the viability of our present machinery. A North Carolina elector, Dr. Lloyd Bailey, cast his electoral vote for George Wallace, despite Mr. Nixon's popular vote victory in North Carolina. Dr. Bailey will have the opportunity tomorrow to state his case, as fully and as freely as he desires. As I see it, however, his actions are proof that the electoral college system leaves too much to chance. I believe the time is now to substitute popular choice for political chance and the only way to do that is to have the people elect the President directly by popular vote.
STATEMENT OF HON. HOWARD H. BAKER, JR., A U.S. SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF TENNESSEE
Senator Bayh. Senator Baker, we appreciate the fact that you are with us this morning.
Senator BAKER. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much and may I begin, as I think I appropriately should begin, by commending the chairman of this subcommittee for undertaking a difficult but I think extremely worthwhile inquiry into a basic change in the form and the method of selecting the Chief Executive Officer of the United States.
I am here, Mr. Chairman, to testify in support of this fundamental reform of our electoral process. The trend of the last few years has been to strip away conditions to full participation in the electoral process. And the time has now come when we must institute a direct vote of the people for their President.
There was a time when the concept of an electoral college served a desirable function. The public at large was poorly educated and had little or no access to the kind of information on which an intelligent choice could be made. It was sound public policy at that time for the citizen to vote for a group of men in his own State who were educated and who were experienced and thus capable presumably of choosing wisely the men to lead this Nation and to choose their President.
But the situation today, Mr. Chairman, is radically different from that which made the system appropriate at the time it was devised, at the time of the birth of this Republic. The people today are widely educated and, due largely to the advent of mass circulation and electronic communications, they are generally well informed on the issues that confront our society and the persons who seek to lead it. The machinery of the electoral college remains; its reason for being has passed, The machinery itself must be eliminated, in my judgment. The system is more than a harmless anachronism; it represents a dangerous impediment to the voice of the people, an unnecessary barrier interposed between the voting citizen and the highest office in his Government,
For many years several different proposals for reform of our presidential electoral system have been suggested. Both the district system and the proportional system have been advanced and found wanting, either because of basic defects or because they would have resulted in substantial changes in the political power processes of this country. The choice today, in my judgment, is between the existing electoral college and a direct popular vote.
The advantages of a direct vote are many, and I shall not enumerate them as they have been often discussed and the advantages so eloquently and ably pointed out by the distinguished chairman of this subcommittee. Rather, I would like to give my attention to two of the principal arguments that have been advanced against direct election.
The first of these arguments is that direct election, if adopted, would be disruptive of our two-party system in that it would cause the creation of numerous ideologically oriented parties which would in turn undermine the moderate political tone that has generally prevailed in our country. The underlying basis of this contention is that ideologically oriented splinter parties are presently discouraged because they rarely, if ever, can win a plurality of the popular vote in any State and thus capture the electoral votes of that State.
Mr. Chairman, considered analysis indicates that a direct vote for the President would not endanger the present workings of our twoparty system.
And may I say, Mr. Chairman, that if I thought for one moment that such a proposal would disrupt the basic tenets of the two-party system, I would not propose it, because I believe the two-party system in the American format is one of the things that has made our great experiment in democracy what its amounts to today. It is the machinery by which the people express their desires and their dissent to the structure of government.
Senator BayH. If the Senator will yield briefly, I want to just again, in the light of the axiom that “confession is good for the soul,” suggest that it was not until I had become convinced that the two-party system would not only not be destroyed but rather strengthened, is that I changed my mind to popular vote. Under the direct election each vote is counted in the national total. Even in Republican or Democratic precincts that never go the other way, that precinct committeeman is going to have the desire to add that total to the national vote. It was not until I became convinced of this that I changed my mind. So I salute the Senator for pointing out that this is one of the critica) arguments attendant to the popular vote system with which we must deal. I appreciate his doing so.
Senator BAKER. I agree. I think, too, Mr. Chairman, it might be pointed out that it is seldom noted, I believe, that in the Constitution of the United States and the various other cornerstone documents of this Republic or in the Statute law itself there is no provision made for how the people of the United States speak to the structure of government.
There is no provision for direct political activity. And the twoparty system as we know it has grown up purely as a product of the American genius for self-government. It exists nowhere else in the world. Two broad based national parties, each not only able to, but indeed anxious to, accommodate a wide variety of viewpoints and ideas, of ideologies and philosophies and meld them into a majority voice on any given election day. This really is the synthesis of selfgovernment.
So I agree with the chairman that we must see that the two-party system in the American format is preserved before we move on to what I believe is the essential improvement of our process of electing a President.
Mr. Chairman, further, Mr. Neil R. Pierce in a recent book entitled, “The People's President," enumerates an extensive body of political research identifying many reasons for the country's adherence to the two-party system, and the electoral college is not among them.
There are many instiutional factors which discourage third parties. Electoral laws, campaign practices, social patterns, the high cost of political campaigning, statutory obstacles to getting on the ballot, and the legal status of the two major parties as supervisors of elections in many States all contribute to the difficulty which minor parties have in attaining any degree of national influence or support.
Prof. V. 0. Key contends that since the institution of the Presidency, unlike a multi-party cabinet, cannot be divided among numerous parties to provide a coalition government, the presidential institution is itself a major reason for the evolution and the development and the continuation of the two-party system as we know it in its present national broad based character. Other authorities assert that our system of electing Representatives by a plurality vote in singlemember districts is the underlying basis of our political party system.
I think this is essentially so, especially since the Congress and the courts have engaged themselves in guaranteeing that there is equality of vote in the one man-one vote concept; which I may, Mr. Chairman, say with some pride that the litigations in that field originated in my home State of Tennessee with the landmark case of Baker v. Carr.
In summary, the contention that our two-party system is significantly sustained by the electoral college overlooks these other more substantial factors that are involved.
A second contention made by some opponents of direct election is that a direct vote would be disruptive of our federal system in that it would inevitably bring irresistible pressures for national laws governing qualifications for voting and the conduct of elections. This would, it is argued, constitute a threat to State control of voting for Representatives, for Senators, and possibly State and local officials and would, as a result, violate State sovereignty.
In discussing reform of our election machinery, I want to make immediately and abundantly clear my deep reverence for an independent two-party system and for the fundamental right and privilege of the various States to make their own election laws and determine their own election procedures within the framework of constitutional federalism. The stability and longevity of our political system and the splendid success of our great experiment in democratic government have been largely due to the concept and the fact of federalism on the one hand and the existence of two broad based, national, popular, parties on the other hand. I would neither propose nor support any reform that would interfere with or in any way endanger either the rights of the states to control elections or the freedom of the two national parties to transact their business.
On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, I must say in all frankness that I do believe that in national elections it is both proper and equitable that some national qualifications be enacted along with the adoption of direct election of our President. For example, I am firmly committed to the reduction of the voting age to age 18. Not only is it unfair that today's active and educated young Americans should have no voice in the future of their country, it is also true that the country will benefit from their participation.
I further believe that immediate provision must be made in our national laws to permit the transient voter to vote in national elections. In today's highly mobile society many qualified Americans are denied the right to vote for the Presidency and Vice Presidency because of residency requirements. This is a patently unjust impediment, and it must be removed.
Another badly needed reform in my opinion, Mr. Chairman, is provision for 24-hour voting coordinated between time zones of the United States. In other words, polling places should be open for a full 24-hour period, and that period should begin and end at the same Greenwich mean time across the Nation. Such a provision would have two salutary effects: It would make voting a great deal easier for many Americans who now find polling hours inconvenient or impossible to meet, and it would also eliminate the bothersome question of whether early returns from eastern States and network computer predictions influence voting patterns in the West where polls are still open.
I recall, Mr. Chairman, if I may allude to my own electoral experience in 1966, that one of the networks projected my race and my election at 6:25 eastern standard time when the polls in the eastern part of my State would not close for another hour and 35 minutes, and the polls in the western part of my State would not close for about 2 hours and 35 minutes. Senator BayH. Would the Senator yield. Is this a.m. or p.m. ?
Senator BAKER. Well, this under the present law, Mr. Chairman, was p.m., but I must say that if the 24-hour voting plan were adopted, that it would be eliminated entirely, although you'd still be able to vote at 6:25 a.m.
Senator Bays. The reason I asked the question is that one network had not predicted me the winner this year until after 6:25 a.m. the following morning.
Senator BAKER. And while the chairman and I are of opposite political persuasion on some issues, not all, but of opposite political parties, I must confess that I was awake and watching at that moment.
Senator BayH. I salute you for your 24-hour suggestion. It is a belief that I have had for some time. It seems to deal with this basic national problem. It is even more pronounced when you are talking about three or four time zones or with the two that are a great source of inconvenience in both of our States that have differing times on election day.
Senator BAKER. Of course, Mr. Chairman, the even greater disparity in times when we consider the States of Alaska and Hawaii.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to make one further point, if I may. Closely connected to the question of reform of the electoral college system is the intelligent controversy over the proper role and function of the presidential preferential primary election. Thoughtful proposals have been made by men of good will for nationwide presidential primaries. I myself would prefer a system of 50-State preferential primaries. I would prefer to see each of the States determine according to its own judgment, its own light and its own circumstances how best to permit the people of that State to express their preference of a presidential nominee for either or both of our two great national political parties.
Such a system of State primaries in which each candidate for the presidency might enter as an individual and in which delegates to the national nominating conventions would be directly elected by the rank-and-file, the people themselves would have several advantages over a single national primary, in my view. It would reinforce rather than weaken the essentially federal nature of our government. It would greatly strengthen party structures in each of the States. It would involve many more citizens in the vitally important work of partisan political activity, and provide clear and unequivocal indicators of a given candidate's merit and of his ability to move the people.
Mr. Chairman, I feel that the unrest and the disquiet which abounds in this country, mirrored and reflected in many ways, including violence and disorder, at the convention of our national parties, at the inaugural process just recently, in our cities and throughout this land, could be attenuated, relieved and alleviated substantially if we could provide in a constructive way for the more direct involvement of more people, especially young people, not only just in the elective process but in the party political process as with the election of the delegates to the national conventions of our two parties.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I do not favor replacing the cumbersome electoral machinery that has served reasonably well this Republic with the form or the substance of change which would not serve equally well. I am confident, however, that the direct election of the President of the United States will not have a disruptive effect. I am convinced that it will improve the quality of government, the involvement of our citizenry and enhance the prospects for the future of this Nation.
I am hopeful that this subcommittee and this Congress will act affirmatively in these fields.
Senator Bayu. Well, I appreciate very much, Senator Baker, your taking time to be with us. I would like to pursue this further with you, but we have been advised that Senator Thurmond is going to object to our proceeding much further inasmuch as we are now in session, and so I hope that we can continue this colloquy on the floor of the Senate when hopefully a measure will be presented within which we can shore up the weaknesses which exist in our present system.
Senator BAKER. Well, may I again commend the chairman for his perseverance and diligence in conducting these hearings and join with him in hoping we do have affirmative action.
Senator BAYH. I am looking forward to working with you.
Senator BAYH. Before closing I would like to introduce in the record a statement of Senator Edmund Muskie. Senator Muskie had intended to be here at this time but was called to Maine and thus is not able to be present.
I will just read six or seven sentences in which he says: