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Australia was first introduced into the United States by its adoption
in 1888 in the State of Massachusetts and in the city of Louisville,
Kentucky. The next year the legislatures of Indiana, Montana, Rhode
Island, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, and
Connecticut passed laws providing for new systems of voting, more or
less resembling the Australian system; and now their example has been
followed by almost all the other States.

PRINCIPLES. - Although there are many modifications of detail in the
statutes of the various States, there are two essential features of the
ballot-reform system which are everywhere observed:

_First_, An arrangement of polling, by which compulsory secrecy of
voting is secured, and intimidation or corruption of voters is

_Second_, One or more official ballots, printed and distributed under
authority, on which the names of all candidates are found.

REQUIREMENTS. - The following are the requirements of the system:
Ballots must be provided by public expense, and none but these ballots
may be used. On these ballots should be printed the names of all
candidates who have been nominated previously to the election, with the
names of the offices for which they have been nominated and of the
parties they represent.

There are two forms of ballots: the _blanket ballot_ and the
_individual ballot_. The former is arranged in some States so as to
group candidates by parties, and in other States by the offices for
which they are nominated. In many cases the names of candidates are
alphabetically arranged, so that there can be no accusation of giving
one party or candidate precedence as to position on the ticket. In a
few cases, the name of the party to which the candidate belongs does
not appear on the ballot at all, but only the name of the office for
which he has been nominated; but in most cases the name of each party
is printed either at the head of the ticket or opposite the name of
each candidate, or in both places.

Where _individual ballots_ are used, a separate ballot is printed for
each party or independent ticket.

VOTING. - Special sworn clerks are engaged to distribute these ballots
to voters at the polls.

The voter is allowed a limited time - say five or ten minutes - to retire
into an election booth erected for the purpose, to make his choice of
candidates or ballots. If the blanket ballot is in use, he does this
by placing a cross opposite the name of the desired candidate or list
of candidates; or by crossing out all others; or by means of pasters
for the substitution of names. If individual ballots are provided, he
selects the one he prefers, or corrects it to his liking by pasting
upon it a single name or an entire ticket. If he prefers, he may write
the names of candidates of his own nomination in place of those already
printed. He, then, without communicating with any one, deposits his
ballot as his vote. Only one man is allowed to enter a booth at a
time, and none but the ballot clerks and the man about to deposit his
ballot are allowed within the enclosure erected for the purpose.

In some States the booths are separated one from the other merely by
partitions, as indicated in the cut, page 181; but in other States each
booth is a separate compartment with a door, which is closed to prevent
even a suspicion of any external observation.

[Illustration: (Page 181) Arrangement of polling place as required by
Massachusetts law.]

In many States, assistance is rendered to the illiterate or the blind.
In some cases, in order to aid those who can not read, each party
adopts a device, as an eagle or a flag, which is printed on the ballot.
In most States a voter who declares that he can not read, or that by
some physical disability he is unable to mark his ballot, may receive
the assistance of one or two of the election officers in marking it.

Every ballot must be strictly accounted for. If any person in
preparing a ballot should spoil it, he may obtain others, one at a
time, not exceeding three in all, provided he returns each spoiled one.
All ballots thus returned are either immediately burned or else
cancelled and preserved by the clerk.

ADVANTAGES. - The advantages which have already accrued from the
adoption of these laws are manifold:

_First_, A secret ballot offers an effectual preventive against
bribery, since no man will place his money corruptly without satisfying
himself that the vote is placed according to agreement.

_Second_, It secures the voter against the coercion, solicitation, or
intimidation of others, and enables him to vote according to the
dictates of his conscience.

_Third_, Bargaining and trading at the polls is prevented, and with
these much tumult, riot, and disorder must of necessity disappear.

_Fourth_, Money is made less of a factor in politics, and the poor man
is placed on a plane of equality with the rich as a candidate.

In addition to these obvious advantages, the ballot reform movement
promises to have much wider effects, and to pave the way and lay the
foundation for other political reforms.

FORMS OF BALLOTS. - On pages 185, 186, and 187 are given forms of
ballots and other matter illustrating various methods employed in
carrying out the ballot laws of the States. It will be observed that
each of these three ballots is representative of a different method.

In the _first_ ballot shown, no party name appears, and the names of
candidates for each office are arranged in alphabetical order. On this
form of ballot, which most resembles that used in Australia, the
individual candidate is made prominent, and party connection does not
appear at all.

_Second_, In the Massachusetts ballot, the names of the candidates are
arranged alphabetically under each office, but in addition to this, the
party name appears opposite the name of each candidate. On this form
of ballot, while the party connection of each candidate is indicated,
greater prominence is given to the individual, and the voter is
required to make choice of a candidate for each office separately. He
cannot vote a straight ticket by a single mark.

_Third_, In the _Indiana_ ticket, the names are grouped according to
party, not according to office, the party name appearing at the head of
the ballot as well as at the side of each name. On this form of
ballot, the party connection of the candidate is made most prominent,
and while provision is made for voting for individuals representing
different parties, still the voting of a straight ticket is made most

Many States use the party-column principle of the Indiana ticket, but
modify the form of the ticket in various details. The party emblem is
sometimes omitted from the circle used in voting a straight picket, or
placed just above that circle. The square opposite each candidate's
name is sometimes placed after the name instead of before it; and is
usually left blank.

A _fourth_ form, namely, that of the _individual ballot_ as used in the
State of _New Jersey_, can not be here shown, as a separate ballot is
required for each party or each independent nomination. These separate
ballots are all _official_, and are furnished at public expense; but
the use of an _unofficial_ ballot is practically allowed, since the
voter is permitted to take to the voting booth a paster ballot
containing a complete party ticket, printed and furnished at party
expense. This he can paste over the official ballot and deposit as his

[Illustration 1: First form of ballot type: City Ballot - no party
names, candidate names in alphabetic order.]

[Illustration 2: Second form of ballot type: Massachusetts Official

[Illustration 3: Third form of ballot type: Indiana State Ballot.]


1. What is meant by the Australian ballot system?

2. Name some places in the United States in which a similar system of
reform has been adopted.

3. What are the essential principles of the system?

4. What are the necessary requirements for carrying out the law?

5. What is the object in providing official ballots?

6. Describe two kinds of polling booths used.

7. What are the obvious advantages of the reform?

8. Describe the characteristic forms of ballot used in various States
which have adopted the reform.

9. Mention the advantages and the disadvantages of the city ballot
shown on page 185.

10. Compare the Massachusetts ballot with the Indiana ballot, and note
their differences.


Which system of voting is likely to secure the best public officers:
that represented in the city ballot of 1890, in the Massachusetts
ballot, or in the Indiana ballot?



Wherever the right to vote exists, the people naturally form themselves
into political parties.

A _political party_ is an organization of voters maintained for the
purpose of impressing its principles upon the public policy of the
country. Men have divers views as to the duties, scope, and proper
measures of the government, and these divers views lead to the
formation of opposing parties. In a free country the majority must
rule, and parties are the means by which majorities are ascertained.

ORIGIN. - Parties usually grow out of questions of legislation, rather
than out of questions of executive management or judicial
interpretation. In other words, a party is formed to influence the
passage of laws, rather than their execution or their application by
the courts. But, when parties are once formed, they usually extend
their influence to the selection of officers of all grades and all
departments, even the least important officials of a township or civil

The presidential election has come to be the most exciting and bitter
of all political contests, because of the large influence which the
President exerts upon national legislation, and because of the immense
patronage of his office.

NECESSITY. - Parties appear to be a necessity in all free governments.
They serve as check upon one another, as the party in power is
responsible for the public policy of the country. If the people are
dissatisfied with the party in power, they can displace it and elect
another in its stead. Parties are therefore placed upon their good
behavior, and made to feel their responsibility to the people.

If there were no party organizations, many of the views of a candidate
would not be known, and there could be no assurance that he would be
true to the interests of the majority electing him. The fact that a
public man is a member of a certain party shows many of the views which
he entertains and the principles which he may be expected to support.

Party government is often bad, but as the party is responsible for the
conduct of all officers elected by it, party government, especially in
legislative affairs, is better than personal government, in which no
one but the officer himself is responsible for his official conduct.

PARTY MACHINERY. - The machinery of parties in this country is very
complex, and is closely interwoven with our system of government. Each
party must select candidates for the various offices in the gift of the
people, in order that it may exert its greatest power in elections and
in public affairs. The people in each party must have a voice in the
selection of candidates for township offices, district offices, county
offices, State offices, and President and Vice President of the United
States. Therefore each party has a system of committees, conventions,
primary elections, and caucuses, for ascertaining the choice of its
members for these various offices.

Parties and party machinery are not generally provided for in the law,
but they exist by a custom almost as old as the government, and are
firmly fixed in our political system.

COMMITTEES. - Each of the great parties has a _national committee_,
consisting of one member from each State and Territory, chosen by its
national convention. The national committee is the chief executive
authority of the party. It calls the national convention, fixes the
time and place for holding it, and the representation to which each
State and Territory is entitled. It appoints a sub-committee of its
members, called the _campaign_ or _executive committee_, which conducts
the political canvass or campaign, for the party.

The campaign committee distributes pamphlets, speeches, newspapers, and
other political documents among the voters of the country; selects
public speakers; makes appointments for them to speak; arranges for
party meetings; collects funds to bear the expenses of the campaign,
and has a general oversight of the party work in all the States.

Each party also has a State committee in each State, usually consisting
of a member from each congressional district, in some States consisting
of a member from each county; a district committee in each
congressional, judicial, senatorial, and representative district,
consisting of a member from each county composing the district; a
county committee, consisting of a member from each township or civil
district; and in some States, various other committees.

Each of these committees performs for the division for which it is
selected duties similar to those which the national committee performs
for the whole Union.

CONVENTIONS. - The method of ascertaining the choice of a party in the
selection of candidates is either by a primary election or by a

A _political convention_ is an assemblage of the voters of a party,
either in person or by representatives called delegates. If the voters
assemble in person, the convention is called a primary or mass meeting.

The purpose of a convention may be to select candidates for office, to
send delegates to a higher convention, to adopt a declaration of
principles, or to decide upon a party policy. It is common for two or
more of these purposes to come before the same convention.

CALLING CONVENTIONS. - In the year of the presidential election, the
national committee calls a national convention, naming the time and
place, and the representation of each State. The State committee calls
a State convention to send delegates to the national convention; and,
if a State election is approaching, it may direct that the convention
shall also select candidates for State offices. In response to this
call, the county committees order county conventions in all the
counties of the State to send delegates to the State convention, and
perhaps to select candidates for county offices. In some States the
township committees order township conventions in all townships for the
purpose of sending delegates to the county conventions, and perhaps to
name candidates for township offices.

It will be seen that the calling of the various conventions connected
directly or indirectly with the selection of candidates for President
and Vice President proceeds from the highest downward. The same order
is observed in other conventions, the call always beginning with the
highest committee concerned and proceeding to the lowest.

LOCAL AND STATE CONVENTIONS. - The order of holding a system of
conventions, however, proceeds from the lowest to the highest. The
township holds a convention and sends delegates to the county
convention. The county convention sends delegates to the State
convention, and the State convention sends delegates to the national

DELEGATES CHOSEN BY PRIMARIES. - In many states the delegates to all
conventions are elected by the members of the party at primary
elections. In some states even the delegates to the national
convention are chosen in this manner.

NATIONAL CONVENTION. - A national convention is an important assemblage.
It contains many distinguished men, and exerts great influence on the
history of the country. A national convention usually consists of more
than a thousand delegates. In a Democratic convention, for instance,
there are four delegates from each State, two from each congressional
district, and a few from the Territories.

In the selection of delegates to the national convention, the State
convention often selects four, representing the two United States
senators, and the members of the convention from each congressional
district select two, representing the lower house of Congress. For
each delegate the State convention also selects an _alternate
delegate_, who attends the national convention in case the regular
delegate can not be present.

The national convention is called to order by the chairman of the
national committee. It then elects a temporary chairman, and afterward
a permanent president. The convention appoints the national committee,
calling upon the delegation from each State to name its member; adopts
a declaration of principles, called a _platform_, for the approaching
campaign; nominates candidates for President and Vice President, and
performs various other work connected with the party organization.

PLATFORM. - The declaration of party principles adopted and issued by a
convention is called a platform, and each separate statement of a
principle is popularly called a _plank_.

The platform is an announcement of the policy to be pursued by the
party if its candidates are elected, and is presumed to contain all the
important principles upon which the voters of the party are agreed.
Upon these principles the party claims the right to administer the
public affairs of the country.

The platforms of State and local conventions are usually based upon the
national platform of the same party, but also contain statements of
principles upon local questions.

NOMINATIONS. - To _nominate_ a candidate is to name him for office; that
is, to place his name before the public. The person nominated is
called the nominee, and all the nominees for a certain election
constitute a ticket.

A nomination usually secures to a candidate the general support of the
party. Voters may vote for other persons than the nominees, but the
great body of voters usually support the tickets of their respective
parties. Nomination serves to prevent a great number of candidates,
and thus simplifies the election.

PRIMARY ELECTIONS. - Candidates for township, county, and other offices
are frequently chosen by means of primary elections.

A _primary election_ is an election in which the members of a party
choose their candidates for office. As a rule, none but the members of
the party holding it can vote in a primary election. Many persons
prefer the primary, to a convention, believing the former to be a
fairer and more impartial method of ascertaining the choice of the
party. The voting is usually by ballot.

In many States primary elections are under the control of the law, and
are guarded by the same restrictions that pertain to other elections.

CAUCUSES. - A meeting composed of the members of a legislative body who
are of the same party, and assembled for party purposes, is called a
_caucus_. _Ward conventions_ in cities are sometimes called by the
same name.

The usual purpose of a caucus is to nominate candidates for offices
within the gift of the legislative body, or to consider questions of
legislation. A caucus elects a chairman and other officers, but rarely
if ever adopts a platform of principles. The great political parties
of the country have caucuses in each branch of Congress, and usually in
the legislatures of the several States.


1. Name the great parties that have existed in the United States.

2. Who are the respective chairmen of the national executive committees
of the two great parties?

3. Read the last national platforms of the two great parties.

4. Which do you like better, primary elections or conventions? Why?

5. Should a member of a legislative body be influenced in his vote by
the decision of the caucus of his party?



Legislation, the act or process of making laws, is the most important
function of government. It is the most important, because it is the
first step, and the enforcement and interpretation of laws depend upon
their enactment. The laws of a country should be as few in number, as
simple in construction, and as uniform in their application, as will
meet the needs of the people. It is a great misfortune for the laws to
bear unequally upon the people; to grant special privileges to one
class, or to impose special hardships upon another class.

The great variety and volume of laws made by the national and the State
legislatures of the United States have led to a close study of
legislation. In no other country is the process of making laws so
thoroughly mastered, or parliamentary law so generally understood.

BILLS. - The process of enacting a law, from its introduction to its
final approval, is an intricate and interesting study. Until its
passage and final approval, a measure is called either a _bill_ or a

Bills and resolutions are very similar, the latter usually being
simpler, and beginning with the words, "Be it resolved" or simply
"Resolved," while the former begin with the words, "Be it enacted." A
joint resolution as well as a bill requires the concurrence of both
houses of a legislative assembly to make it a law.

INTRODUCTION. - The introduction of a bill is the first presentation of
it to a legislative body for action. This is usually done by asking
"leave" of the body, either orally or in writing, to bring the measure
before it. This leave to present is rarely if ever refused.

The rules require that after its introduction it shall be three times
read aloud before its passage. These three readings do not refer to
readings for information as to its provisions. The constitutions of
nearly all States require that the three readings shall be on three
different days; but in most of them this rule, may be suspended by a
two thirds, three fourths, four fifths, or unanimous vote, the
requisite majority varying in different States.

COMMITTEES. - When a bill or resolution is introduced, it is usual to
refer it to a committee for a critical consideration. A _committee_
usually consists of from three to thirteen members, of whom the first
named is usually chairman, presumably selected for their knowledge of
the subjects to come before them.

A _standing committee_ lasts during the entire session. Most
legislative bodies have from twenty to forty standing committees.

A _special_ or _select committee_ is raised for a special purpose, and
is usually adjourned when its report is made.

A _committee of the whole_ consists of all the members of a body
sitting as a committee. In committees of the whole the regular
presiding officer usually vacates the chair, calling some other member
of the body to act as chairman. The principal part of the work of a
legislative body is perfected by its committees. They discuss the
merits and demerits of bills, and perfect such as, in their judgment,
should pass.

REPORTS. - The committee to whom a bill has been referred critically
examines it, and usually reports it to the body, either _favorably_ or
_unfavorably_, recommending that it should pass or should not pass. If
the members of a committee are equally or nearly equally divided as to
the merits of the bill, it may be reported without an expression of

When important bills are reported by a committee they are usually
discussed by the members of the body. The debate on the measure
usually brings out the reasons for, and those against, its passage.
Many bills are several times recommitted - that is, again referred to a
committee - before their passage.

In some legislative bodies, especially in the Congress of the United
States, a great many bills are _pigeon-holed_ by committees; that is,
are filed away and never reported. The reports of the committees,
whether favorable or unfavorable, are usually adopted by the body, and
therefore have an important bearing upon legislation.

AMENDMENTS. - In most legislative bodies a bill may be amended at the
pleasure of the majority, before it is read the third time. Amendments
are made for the purpose of perfecting the measure. A bill may be
amended by striking out some of its provisions, by striking out and
inserting, or by inserting.

A bill passed by one house of a legislature maybe amended by the other
house, but, if amended, must be returned with the amendment to the
house in which it originated, in order that the amendment may be
considered. If one house amends and the other refuses to accept, the

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Online LibraryAlexander L. PetermanElements of Civil Government → online text (page 11 of 16)