Speech File Material: Reference materials on voting registration programs, Jan 1973 - Feb 1975





[one page of the Congressional Record/ Sen. Julian Bond's article] [headline] [left hand corner an eagle crest with United States of America under neath] Congressional Record PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 93d CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION Vol. 119 WASHINGTON, THURSDAY, JANUARY 18. 1973 No. 9 [end headline]

Senate [three columns] [first column] NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION By Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. STEVENS, Mr. BIBLE, Mr. EAGLETON, Mr. GRAVEL, Mr. HART, Mr. HGHES, Mr. HUMPHREY, Mr. MAGNUSON, Mr. MOSS, Mr. MUSKIE, and Mr. WILLIAMS): S. 472. A bill to amend title 12, United States Code, to establish within the Bureau of the Census a Voter Registration Administration to carry out a program of financial assistance to encourage and assist the States and local governments in registerating voters. Referred to the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service.

VOTER REGISTRATION ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1973 Mr KENNEDY. Mr. President, on behalf of the distinquished senior Senator from Alask, Mt. STEVENS AND Senators BIBLE, EAGLETON, GRAVEL, HART, HUGHES, HUMPHREY, MACNUSON, MOSS, MUSKIE, WILLIAMS, and myself, I send to the desk of the Senate for appropriate reference the Voter Registration Assistance Act of 1973. The purpose of this bill is to establish an effective program of Federal financial assistance to State and local governments in carrying out their existing voter registration programs, and to provide specific financial incentives to encourage State and local governments to modernize their registration porcedures.

The bill contains four major featres:

First, the bill is bases on the principle of a voluntary, not mandatory, program of Federal assistance to State and local jurisdictions in the area of voter registration. No State or local government will be compelled to take any action under this bill, but those who wish to take advantage of its financial assistance provisions will be able to do so.

Second, the bill establishes a number of types of Federal grants available to State and local governments:

Grants to pay up to 10 cents per eligible voter to defray the cost of existing boter registration programs.

Grants to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of new programs to expand voter registration, such as deputy registrars, mobile registrats, door-to-door canvasses, and additional locations and extended hours for registration. The maximum grant to any jurisdiction under this category is 10[symbol for cents] per eligible voter.

Grants to plan computerized registration systems,. The maimum grant here is one-half cent per eligible voter or $15,000, whichever is greater.

[second column] Grants to pay the full cost of registration-by-mail programs.

Grants and technical assistance for the prevention and control of fraud.

Third, the new program will be admisistered by a bipartisan Voter Registration Administration Administration created in the Census Bureau. The Director of the Census is authorized to carry out the program until the new administration is established.

Fourth, the bill contains a 3-year, $135 million authorization for the program, providing $45,000,000 each year for the next 3 fiscal years.

Of all the figures to come out of the 1972 presiential election last November, perhaps the most distressing is the current estimate that only 56 percent of those who were eligible to vote actually went to the polls on election day. If these preliminary figures are correct, then it appears that the percentage of the voter turnout in 1972 was five points lower even than in the low-turnout year of 1968, itself one of the lowest voter turn-cuts in any presidential election in this century and the lowest turnout since 1948.

We do not have to look far to find the reason. Again and again, in recent years we have learned that registration is the villian, and 1972 is no exception.

For a nation that likes to call itself the greatest democracy in the history of the world, the system of voter registration in modern America is a national scandal, a blight on our most basic political process. Incredible as it may seem, of all the fundamental rights that Americans hold ear, the way we exercise the right to vote is the one we have neglected most.

Time and again, we have fought to extend the franchise, in order to insure that every citizen has the right to share in the political life of the Nation through participation at the polls. The 15th amendment, adopted in 1870, guaranteed the vote to citizens regardless of their race. The 19th amendment, adopted in 1920, extended the franchise to women. The 24th amendment, adopted in 1964, abolished the poll tax. And the 15th amendment, adopted in 1971, extended the vote to 18-years-olds. All these constitutional milestones are monuments to our continuing concern.

But after every milestoe, we always rested on our laurels. We left the job half done. For millions of Americans, the right to vote was a thing they could admire, but never use.

[third column] The reason is clear. For generations - indeed, throughout the 20th century - every American who sought to exercise his right to vote has had to run a gauntlet of arbitary, unfair, and obsolete requirements of voter registration. Confronted by such requirements, millions of potential voters fall by the wayside at each election, and millions more refuse to even try.

And when I say millions, I mean million, Take the figures for presidential elections, the elections in which Americans traditionally, have had the strongest incentive to participate. In the election of 1960, 39 million eligible voters failed to go to the polls. In 1964, the figure climbed to 43 million. In 1968, it rose to 47 million. And in 1972, if the estomates are accurate, there were 62 million Americans who did not vote.

If any single figure has come to sumbolize the crisis of voter turnout in America, it is these millions of lost voters - 62 million in 1972. Of the 139 million potential voters in the presidential election last year, only 77 million - or 56 percent - actually went to the polls, the lowest turnout since 1940. Sixty-two million people stayed home, at a time when President Nixon was receiving 47 million votes and Senator McGOVERN was receiving 29 million votes.

The voting record of America becomes even more dismal when we compare it to the record of other Western democracies. In 1970 in Britain, 71 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls, and the called it one of the lowest turnouts in British history. In recent elections in other European nations, the turnout has been even higher - 74 percent in Canada, 77 percent in France, and 91 percent in West Germany, to name but three.

We know that the situation has not always been this way in the United States. Throughout thelatter half of the 19th century voter turnout in our Presidential elections consistently ranged in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 percent. Twice, it exceeded 80 percent. Onlyonce did it drop as "low" as 70 percent.

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[continue Congressional Record] [three columns] [first column] Since 1900, however, we have not seen even the 70 percent level again. Eight times in this century - including 1972, the first time since 1948 - the turnout has fallen below 60 percent. Twice it fell below 50 percent. Clearly, in spite of the enormous progress that the 20th century has brought us in so many other areas, we have moved backward in the crucial area of voter participation.

The cause is not far too seek. Study after study in recent years has demonstrated that the heart of problem is our archaic system of voter registration. It is no accident that the sharp decline in voter turnout at the beginning of the 20th century coincided with the advent of voter registration legislation.

As historians have shown, the present pattern of voter registration in virtually every State is a legacy of the wave of electoral reform that swept America at the turn of the century. In many States, registration was adopted as a means to end widespred voting frauds and other abuses that marred elections in city after city across the Nation. In others, registration was adopted for the darker purpose of discouraging minorities and other ethnic groups from going to the polls, especially black citizens in the South.

Today, in spite of the enormous progress we have made in so many other areas of public life, we are still using voter registration methods which were, perhaps, sophisticated at the turn of the century, but which are generation out of date today.

In almost every other sphere in which government now operates - at the Federal, State, or local level - it uses the tools of the modern world, especially in the area of communications with the people. But if governments collected taxes the way they register voters today, they would be so bankrupt that revenue-sharing could never bail them out. Why is it that Americans pay their taxes by mail, when they still have to register to vote by methods as obsolete as the Pony Express or the model T?

To paraphrase the famous epigram of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, it is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than the fact that it was laid down in the time of William McKinley. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.

There is ample evidence that reform in voter registration is the key to improvement in voter turnout. The figure I have cited - 56 percent voter participation in 1972 - does not tell the whole story. In fact, according to preliminary Census data, of the Americans who were registered to vote in 1972, fully 87 percent went to the polls and cast their ballots on election day.

Put another way, of the 62 million citizens who staved home on election day in 1972, the vast majority were not registered to vote. They could not have voted, even if they had wanted to. Only a samll percentage of those who stayed home on election day were registered to vote.

This is the real lesson for the future. Americans who register are Americans who vote. If our goal is bring America

[second column] to the polls, the place to start is with voter registration.

Again and again, in recent years, detailed studies have demonstrated that the principal factor in the crisis over voter turnout is voter registration, not voter apathy. An extensive study of voting behavior in 104 cities in the 1960 election concluded that registration requirements are a more effective deterrent to voting than anything that normally operates to deter citizens from voting, once they have registered; According to the study, 30 percent of those who have failed to vote in 1960 were disfranchised by the burden of existing registration requirements.

Similar studies on the 1968 election also concluded that the most significant impediment to the exercise of the franchise is the registration requirement. For example, the report of the Freedom To Vote Task Force, published in 1969, found that registration systems posed the most serious single impediment to full participation in the Nation's elections. And, in Texas, a recent study concluded that for every additional month the registration books stay open before election day, an additional 2.7 percent of the population would be registered.

Equally significant is the report last year by the League of Women Voters, entitled "Administrative Obstacles to Voting." The report, issued in the spring of 1972, was based on a study of election practices in hundreds of communities across the Nation during the fall elections of 1971. The report condemns in unmistakable terms the enormous burden that out present system of registration imposes on citizens throughout the country.

In part, of course, the dramatically higher voter turnout in foreign countries is a result of the fact that the United States stands virtually alone among the democratic nations of the world in tolerating a passive role of government in registration, and in basing registration primarily on the initiative of the individual rather than on Government action.

Thus, in Britain, registration officials prepare annual voting lists in each Britian election district, using mail and door-to-door canvass methods.

In Canada, registration officials prepare ad hoc voting lists before each Federal election by making a door-to-door canvass in each polling subdivision in urban areas-cities or town with a population of 5,000 or more-during a 6-day period 7 weeks before the election, with a final revision of the list taking Canada place 2 1/2 weeks before election day. A modified procedure is used for rural areas. Before the June 1968 election, for example, 81,000 Canadian officials registered 11 million citizens - 98 percent of the eligible voters - at a cost of approximately 7.5 million of slightly less than 69 cents a voter. If this Canadian experience could be extrpolated to the United States, the cost of a similar registration canvass would be approximately $100 million.

But, in large part, the higher voter turnout in nations like Britain and Canada is also due to the unreasonable burdens

[third column] that our "individual initiative" system imposes on citizens attempting to register. Instead of an "individual initiative" system, our system might more appropriately be called a "law of the jungle" or a "survival of the fittest" system.

In State after State we see the chaos and complexity and confusion in our present reigistration system. Whenever we look, we find that registration is an obstacle course for the voter, instead of the easy path to the polls it ought to be.

The defects of the present system are not confined to any State or geographic region. They go by names like early closing deadlines, unreasonable purges of voting rolls, unfair re-registration requirements, inaccessible registration offices, and lack of absentee registration. The burdens are almost endless:

In some States, registration closes months before the election. A recent study cited 15 States in which the registration books closed more than a month before the election. Often, the closing date is much earlier. Such early closing deadlines serve no legitimate administrative purpose. In 1968 in Idaho, for example, the registration books were closed only two days before the election, and 72 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots on election day.

In many of the Nation's cities and counties, there is no real local registration ofiice. The only place a citizen can register to vote is atcity hall or at the central downtown office of the board of elections.

In other cities. the problem is even worse. The only place to register may be the county courthouse outside the city limits.

In thousands of rural areas, registration means a long and time-counsuming journey into town.

For millions of residents in communites like these, the inconvenience of a trip downtown or out of town or into town is an insurmountable battier to registration. Often, the expense of the trip or the loss of income of time away from the job is sufficient by itself to inhibit registration - in effect, a tax that denies the right to vote as surely as the outlawed poll tax used to do.

For millions of the Nations's elderly, disabled, or sick - those who simply do not have the physical ability to travel to the registration office to register in person - the lack of effective procedure for absentee registration means that they are denied the right to vote at all.

And those who find their way to the registration office often learn that their problems have just begun. Often, the office is open only an hour or two a day, or a day or two a week. Sometimes, it may be necessary to make an appointment in advance. Other times, the registrar simply shuts the office early, if no applicants arrive that day. In still other cases, all but the most determined voters give up the face of the endless lines and waiting periods they find inside the door of the registration office.

Such examples are legion. The ones I have cited could be multiplied many times over. They are found in [almost?] every State. But they are enough, I think, to identify the problem and to

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[continue Congressional Record] -3[three columns] [first column] demonstrate the need for early and effective action by Congress.

And is in so many other situations, the burden of our complex and caprici[ous?] registration system weighs especially heavily on disadvanteged groups in our society.

Only 66 percent of the Nation's black citizens were registered in 1963, while the future was 76 percent for the white [illegible?]

Only 53 percent of those in families with incomes of less than $3,000 were registered in 1968, while 82 percent of those in families with incomes between $10,000 and $15,000 were registered.

Only 69 percent of the Nation's manual [voters?] were registered to vote, while 83 percent of the Nation's white collar voters were registered.

Only 49 percent of those with a formal education of 1 to 4 years were registered in 1968, while 87 percent of those with a [illegible?] degree were registered.

The prelimianary Census data for 1972 indicated that essentially the same pattern was followed last November, with two additional groups at a serious disadvantage - 18 to 21 year olds, only about 40 percent of whom went to the polls, and Mexican-Americans, of whom only about [20 percent?] voted.

Clearly, on the basis of statistics like these, the burden of our present registration system falls mostly heavily on the poor, the black, the less-educated, the blue collar worker, the young, and the Spanish speaking.

But it is not just the disadvantaged who are caught by the exisiting system. The chaos and the defects of the system are not confined to any single population group or geographic region. They trap us all - the businessman in his office, the housewife in her suburb, the worker in his factoy, the doctor in his clinic. Rarely, in fact, has any movement for reform so clearly cut across all political, economic, social, and geographic lines.

Left to Individual State action, the comprehensive reforms we need will never happen. Registration is a national problem and it demands a national solution. Without legislation at the Federal level, the ineria of nearly a century of past and present practice will continue, and we shall lose this timely and fertile opportunity to make government more responsive to the people.

Now, with the passions of an election year behind us. Congress has the opportunity to breathe new life into the political process in America. There is perhaps no more important step we can now take to make our democracy responsive to all the poeple. If we act to end the [illegible?] of voter registration, we can revitalize all our public institutions and build a stronger nation to meet the many difficult challenges we face at home and overseas.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator [illegible?] McGEE and the Senate Post Office Committee in the Senate, and of Congressman CHARLES WILSON and his Postal [illegible?] committee in the House, Congress has already compiled an outstanding record of bipartisan support for reform, and I am confident that the 93d Congress will enact the measures we need, and end the [illegible?] of America's lost voters.

[second column] Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill may be printed in the RECORD, together with the following additional materials: Table I, giving a State by State summary of the voter turnout in the November 1972 Presidential election: table II, giving a summary of voter turnout in Presdidential elections in the United States since 1824; table III, giving a summary of voter turnout in recent elections in certain foreign democratic nations; and in certain foreign democratic nations; and the 1972 report of the League of Women Voters Education Fund, entitled: Administrative Obstacles to Voting."

There being no objection, the bill and material were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 472 A bill to amend title 13. United States Code, to establish within the Bureau of the Census a Voter Registration Administration to carry out a program of financial assistance to encourage and assist the States and local governments in registered voters

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Voter Registration Assistance Act of 1973".

SEC. 2. (a) Title 13, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new chapter:


"Sec. "401. Definitions "402. Establishement of Voter Registration Administration "403. Functions of the Administration "404. Grants to defray costs of voter registration "405. Grants to increase voter registration activites "406. Grants to modernize voter registration "407. Grants for registration by mail "408. Technical assistance and fraud prevention "409. Applications for grants "410. Regulations "411. Authorization of Appropriations

" 401. DEFINITIONS "As used in this chapter"(1) 'Administration' means the Voter Registration Administration; "(2) 'State' means each State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any territory or possession of the United States; and "(3) 'grant' means grant, contract, or other appropriate financial arrangement.

" 402 ESTABLISHMENT OF VOTER REGISTRATION ADMINISTRATION "(a) There is established within the Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, the Voter Registration Administration, hereafter referred to in this chapter as 'Administraton."

"(b) The Administration shall consist of an Administrator and two Associate Administrators, who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Administrator and Associate Administrators shall serve for terms of four years each, and may continue in office until a successor is qualified. An individual appointed to fill a vancancy shall serve the remainer of the term to which his predeccessor was appointed. The Associate Administrators shall not be members of the same political party.

"(c) Except as otherwise provided, the Director of the Bureau of the Census, until such time as the members of the Administration are appointed, is authorized to exercise the duties and powers of the Administration created and established by this chapter.

[third column] "403. Functions of the Administration. " (a) The Administration shall"(1) make grants, in accord with the provisions of this chapter, upon the request of State and local officals, to States and political subdivisions thereof to carry out programs of voter registration:

"(2) collect, analyze, and arrange for the publication and sale by the Government Printing Office of information concerning elections in the United States:

"(3) obtain such facilities and supplies, and appoint and fix the pay of such officers and employees, as may be nexessary to carry out the purpose of this chapter:

"(4) provide technical assistance, upon their request, to officials of States and political subdivisions thereof concerning voter registration:

"(5) prepare and submit to the President and the Congress on March 31 following each biennial general Federal election a report on the activities of the Administration and on voter registration procedures in the States and political subsivisions thereof, including recommendations for such additional legislation as may be appropriate: and

"(6) take such other actions as it deems necessary and proper to carry out its functions under this chapter.

"(b) The Administration shall not publish or discose any informaton which permits the identifiacation of individual voters.

"404. GRANTS TO DEFRAY COSTS OF VOTER REGISTRATION ACTIVITES The administration is authorized to make grants to any State or political subdivision thereof for the purpose of carrying out voter registration activities. A grant made under this section shall not be in excess of 10 cents for each eligible voter in the State or political subdivision receiving the grant.

"405. GRANTS TO INCREASE VOTER REGISTRATION "(a) The Administration is authorized to make grants to any State or political subdivision thereof to establish and carry out programs to increase the number of registered voters. Such a program may include"(1) expanded registration hours and locations: "(2) mobile registration facilities: "(3) employment of deputy registrars: "(4) door-to-door canvass procedures: "(5) absentee registration procedures: "(6) reregistration programs: "(7) public information activities: and "(8) other activites designed to increase voter registration and approved by the Administration.

"(b) A grant made under this subsection shall be equal to 50 percent of the fair and reasonable cost, as determined by the Administration, of establishing and carrying out such a program. A grant made under this section shall not be in excess of 10 cents for each eligible voter in the State or political subdivision receiving the grant.

"406. GRANTS TO MODERNIZE VOTER REGISTRATION The Administration is authorized to make grants to any State or political subdivision thereof for planning, evaluating, and designing the use of electronic data processing or other appropriate procedures to modernize voter registration. A grant made under this section shall not be in excess of one-half cent for each eligible voter in the State or subdivision receiving the frant, or $15,000. whichever is greater.

"407. GRANTS FOR VOTER REGISTRATION BY MAIL "The Administration is authorized to make grants to any State of political subdivision thereof to carry out a program of voter registration by mail. A grant made under this section shall be equal to the fair and reasonable cost, as determined by the Administration, of establishing and operating a registration

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[continue of the Congressional Record] -4-by-mail sustem. Forms available for registration by mall shall conform to such regulations as the Administraton may prescribe, including the use of bilingual forms where approporate. Such forms shall be widely available for distribution in post offices and other public locations and for distribution by private individuals and organizations.

"408. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND FRAUD PREVENTION "The Administration is authorized to provide technical assistance, including assistancein developing programs for the prevention and contol of fraud, to any State or political subdivision thereof for improving voter registration and voter participation. Such assistance sahll be made available at the request of states and political subdivisions thereof, to the extent practicable and consistent with the provisions of this chapter.

"409. APPLICATIONS FOR GRANTS Grants authorized by section 404, 405, 406, or 407 of this chapter may be made only upon application to the Administration at such time or times and containing such information as the Administration may prescribe. The Administration shall provide an explanation of the grant programs authorized by this chapter to State or local election officials, and shall offer to prepare, upon request, applications for such grants. No application shall be approved unless it -

"(a) demonstrates, to the satisfaction of the Administration, that the applicant has primary responsibility for registering voters within its jurisdiction:

"(b) sets forth the authority for the grant under this chapter:

"(c) provides such fiscal control and fund accounting procedures as may be necessary to assure proper disbursement of and accounting for Federal funds paid to the applicant under this chapter and provides for making available to the Administration, for purposes of audit and examination, books, documents, papers, and records related to any funds received under this chapter: and

"(d) provides for making such reports, in such form and containing such information, as the Administration may reasonably require to carry out its functions under this chapter, for keeping such records, and for affording such access thereto as the Administration may find neccessary to assure the correctness and verification of such reports.

"410. REGULATIONS "The Administration is authorized to issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

"411. AUTHOTIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS "For the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this chapter, there is authorized to be appropriated the sume of $45,000,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1984 and for each of thetwo succeeding fiscal years."

(b) The table of chapters of title 13, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following: II Voter Registration . . .401". SEC 203. Section 5316 of title 5. United States Code, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following:

"(132) Administrator and Associate Administrators (2), Voter Registration Administration, Bureaur of the Census."


State Eligible voters Actual Voters Voter Turnout
Alabama 2,274.000 1,006.000 44.2
Alaska 200,000 95,000 47.5
Arkansas 1,310,000 621,000 47.4
California 13,945,000 7,765.000 55/7
Colorado 1, 553,000 909,000 60.9
Connecticut 2,106,000 1,384,000 65.7
Delaware 371,000 234,000 63.6
District of Columbia 518,000 164,000 31.7
Florida 5,105,000 2,576,000 50.5
Georgia 3,104,000 1,172,000 37.8
Hawaii 531,000 270,000 50.8
Idaho 479,000 310,000 64.7
Indiana 3,509,000 2,128,000 60.6
Iowa 1,909,000 1,225,000 64.2
Kansas 1,541,000 916,000 59.4
Kentucky 2,206,000 1,067,000 48.4
Louisiana 2,339,000 1,051,000 44.9
Maine 666,000 417,000 62.6
Maryland 2,633,000 1,345,000 50.3
Massachusetts 3,555,000 2,453,000 62.1
Michigan 5,874,000 3,437,000 59.4
Minnesota 2,560,000 1,738,000 67.9
Mississippi 1,430,000 646,000 46.0
Missouri 3,266,000 1,856,000 56.8
Montana 450,000 318,000 60.1
Nebraska 1,022,000 576,000 56.4
Nevada 343,000 182,000 52.3
New Hampshire 521,000 334,000 64.1
New Jersey 5,025,000 2,992,000 59.5
New Mexico 636,000 386,000 60.7
New York 12,773,000 7,157,000 56.0
North Carolina 3,463,000 1,506,000 43.5
North Dakota 402,000 281,000 69.9
Ohio 7,185,000 4,087,000 56.9
Oklahoma 1,812,000 1,080,000 56.8
Oregon 1,580,000 9222,000 61.5
Pennsylvania 8,161,000 4,589,000 55.2
Rhode Island 673,000 416,000 61,8
South Carolina 1,706,000 672,000 39.4
South Dakato 434,000 307,000 70.7
Tennessee 2,713,000 1,201,000 44.3
Texas 7,681,000 3,461,000 45.1
Utah 689,000 478,000 69.4
Vermont 309,000 187,000 60.5
Virginia 3,197,000 1,447,000 45.3
Washington 2,371,000 1,470,000 62.-
West Virginia 1,182,000 762,000 64.5
Wisconsin 2,955,000 1,851,000 62.6
Wyoming 225,000 145,000 64.9
Total 139,642,000 77,684,000 55.6
1 Source: Bureau of the Census. Current Population Reports. "Projections of the Population of Voting Age for States: November 1972", series P-25, No. 479 (Marcj 1972). table w. 2 Source: Certified vote totals in the 1972 election, as published in the New York Times, Dec. 20, 1972, p. 28; Dec. 24, 1972, p. 26. Figures rounded to nearest thousand.

TABLE II - VOTER TURNOUT IN U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. 1824-1972 [in percent] [{four columns}]

Election Turnout Election Turnout
1824 26.9 1900 73.2
1828 57.6 1904 65.2
1832 55.4 1908 65.3
1836 57.8 1912 58.8
1840 80.2 1916 61.6
1844 78.9 1920 49.2
1848 72.7 1924 48.9
1852 69.6 1928 56.9
1856 78.9 1932 56.9
1860 81.2 1936 61.0
1864 73.8 1940 62.5
1868 81.2 1944 55.9
1872 71.3 1948 53.0
1876 81.8 1952 63.3
1880 79.4 1955 60.6
1884 77.5 1960 64.0
1888 79.3 1964 61.8
1892 74.7 1968 60.6
1896 79.3 1972 55.6
Nation Election Turnout (percent) Comment
Australia Dec. 2, 1972 97 Compulsory registration and voting
Canada Oct. 30, 1972 74
France June 2, 1969 77
West Germany Nov. 19, 1972 91
Italy May 7-8, 1972 93 Compulsory voting
Netherlands Nov. 29, 1972 83 Compulsory Voting
New Zealand Nov. 25, 1972 90 Compulsory Registration
Great Britain June 18, 1972 71
Ireland June 18, 1972 75
[third column] [Report NLWV printed in right hand corner] ADMINISTRATIVE OBSTACLES TO VOTING (A report of the Election System P[illegible?] the League of Women Voter Education Fund._ PREFACE The need for election reform through Federal legislation has been documented and endorsed by several committees of [illegible?] prominence. Most notable is the report of the President's Commission on Registration and Voting Participation and the [illegible?] of the Freedom to Vote TaskForce. A [illegible?] report of the National Municipal [illegible?] focus on the need for legislative [illegible?] election reform. A model state [illegible?] also is being developed by the National Municipal League and will be available to the legislatures for their consideration.3

In addition to changes in administive practices of local and state election [illegible?] (For the purposes of this study, administrative practices refers to the standards, procedures and structures set up to implement state election laws.) The main purpose of the report then is to document the need for administrative changes and to draw attention to the numerous administrative obstacles which confront all Americans as the [illegible?] implement they right to vote.

The basis for the report is a study undertaken by the League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) with the [illegible?] of a grant from the Ford Foundation. The administrative practices of election [illegible?] om 251 communities were documented through the efforts of over 3,000 League volunteers during the fall election period of 19714

All types of communities were included in this study; those where problems of [illegible?]tration and voting were less likely to be [illegible?] om the extreme as well as those where problems were less visible. In general information was collected from at least [illegible?] large city, a suburb, an independent small town, and a rural area in every State. To supp;ement the League effor, information from some areas of the rural South was collected by local organizations associated with the Voter Education Project. This sample of communities encompassed approximately 40 million people or one-fifth of the total population of the United States.

Data were collected through three methods: (1) recording official registration and voting procedures. (2) interviewing government and election board personnel [to?] determine attitudes and practices, and (3) [illegible?]ing citizen experiences at both registration and polling places. Information also was collected on state administrative practices [in?] regard to elections by some state [illegible?] Women Voters.

It should be noted that ovserva[illegible?] registration and polling places were [illegible?] during the period of the 1971 [illegible?] This means that administrative [illegible?] observed in a non-presidential election in which various types of contest, some considerably

1Report published in 1963. 2Two reports issued in 1971 by the Commission of the Democratice National Committee: "Report of the Freedom to Vote [illegible?] Force of the Democratice National Committee and "That All May Vote". 3 Developed under a two year grant from the Ford Foundation, the [illegible?] state [illegible?]tion codes will be published in the spring 1973/ 5 A modified version of the comprehensive survey on which this report is [illegible?] ducted by League volunteers in an [illegible?] 600 communities. The purpose or [illrgible?] Survey was to verify the validity of the comprehensive survey sample

Last edit 3 months ago by Princess1
Needs Review


-5[two columns] [first column] more important and appealing than others, were at stake. This factor tends to mute the findings and conclusions drawn from the study. It is reasonable to conclude then that the findings contained in this report might be an understatement of the problems citizens experience when participating in presidential elections.

It is also important to review the findings within the framework of the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote of every eligible citizen. This means that although some figures pertaining to a given administrative obstacle to voting may be less than 50%, the finding may nevertheless be higly significant to the extent that it indicates that thousands or hundreds of thousands of citizens are possibly being disenfranchised.

Within this context, Then, the study documents the fact that the current system of registration and voting functions inefficiently for citizens throughout the United States. Both supportive evidence and specific recommendations for administrative changes are included in this report.

A LOOK AT THE PRESENT SYSTEM During the next six months, much public attention will focus on the principal candidates and issues of the November presidential eletion. It is doubtful, however, that veruy much concern will be given to the electoral process itself - that system of registration and voting procedures Americans must use in order to express their choice on the candidates.

Most citizens show little interest in the process not because they dismiss its importance but simply because they do not recognize the extent to which the current election system impairs the right of all Americans to engage in self-government. The public generally belives that the system has worked well for them in the past and that it will work well for the 140 milion Americans of voting age in 1972.

Regrettably, the present election system has not worked well. It still bears the mark of forces which originally gave it birth at the turn of the century: fear of the polls and a desire to control the voting perticipation of millions of European immigrants who threatened the political status quo. Although these particular forces have largely ceased to exist the system remains saddled with many unnecessarily restrictive laws and exclusionary procedures. It has become an administrative maze in which many of the fact, be more easily hidden and through which the average citizen must painstakingly grope in order to exercise his fundamental right to the franchise.

Fear of fraud is often advanced in opposition to proposed reforms of the present election system. It could be argued, however that such abuses are a function of community mores and will exist in some communities no matter what election procedures are established. More noteworthy, it would seem, is the fraud perpetuated on the American people by a system which excludes millions of eligile voters from the electorial process in the name of preventing a few dishonestly-cast votes.

Indeed, the system works poorly for all Americans. In the case of minorites, the poor, the uneducated and the aged, who are unable to meet its complicated requirements easily, the system naturally imposes more heavily than it does on the average mainstream American. These groups can be even further excluded from the elctoral process by the arbitrary and even further excluded from the elctoral process by the arbitrary and uneven applicaton of administrative procedures which, while legal, can be manipulated to serve the polical advantage of philosophy of those who control them.

Such misuse of administrative practices is

[second column] not new to the institutional life of our society. What is notable about the established election system is the extent to which, barring misuse of any kind, it denies the rights and infringes on the convenience of hundreds of thousands of Americans regardless of their racial or economic background.

In the presidential election of 1968, 73 million Americans or approximately 60% of the total population of voting age actually vted for a candidate of their chocie: 47 million or appoximately 40% did not cast a ballot. Compared with other democratic countries, this voting rate of American citizens is embarrassingly low.

[penciled in text right hand margin- Italy Canada W. Germany are penciled in] Fox example, the rate at which voters in Italy have participated in elections in the last 10 years has regularly approached 90%. Canada records a voting rate of approximately 75% to 80%, and in the last 25 years, West German citizens have voted at rates which range between 78% and 87%.

It is the contention of this eport that millions of Americans citizens fail to vote not because they are disinterested but because they are disenfranchised by the present election system. Ironically moreover, many of them lose their right to vote not because they are poor, black, uneducated or uninterested but because they are part of the mainstream of American society. Moving to a better neighborhood, accepting a company transfer, going to college, getting married, serving their country and exercising other rights, freedoms and obligations to their county too often has had the effect of denying citizens their right to vote.

Undoubtedly, the present election system will contine to disenfranchise million of Americans of every economic and socail background unless improvements are made at both the admistrative and legislative levels.

THE POWER OF THE LOCAL OFFICIAL UNDER CURRENT ELECTION LAWS To what extent can electoral reform occur within the context of existing law? To what degree do current state election laws affect the administrative behavior of election officials?

In a few areas of registration and voting, the law is specific. Residency requirements and closing dates for registration are examples. Although the capacity of administrators and local officals to act independently is considerably limited in these instance, they can determine the impact of these laws by the vigor with which they make these requirements known and encourage citizens to meet them.

Most of the laws concerning registration and voting, however, are not specific. In many cases, the law only established broad minimum requirements, thereby leaving a great deal of discretion to local officials. For instance the law may require that a central registration office be located in each city of the state but not specify how clearly that office shall be identified. In fact, 52% of approximately 300 registration places observed in this study were not clearly identified. Again, the law may state that registration lists must be available to the public, but it often does not stipulate the mechanisms for making the lists available. For instance, there was a financial charge for the registration list in 55% of the communities and authorization for access to the list was required in 38% of the cases.

Local officials may be even more powerful where the law is merely permissive. State statutes frequently allow, but do not require the following: precinct registration, Saturday andpr evening registration hours, and the authorization of deputy registrats. Data from the community study show that in these areas local officials frequently do not use these statutory powers to reach citizens.

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