United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Post.

Voter registration. Hearings, Ninety-third Congress, first session, on S. 352 and S. 472. Feb. 7, 8, and March 16, 1973 online

. (page 14 of 28)
Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Committee on PostVoter registration. Hearings, Ninety-third Congress, first session, on S. 352 and S. 472. Feb. 7, 8, and March 16, 1973 → online text (page 14 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

man Lucy Wilson Benson referred to the Conference
on Expanding the Electorate as "the League's
voters liberation movement." She continued, "For
that's exactly what we're out to do. To free
millions of American citizens from election system
binds and barriers and to raise the level of pub-
lic consciousness to the point where it will no
longer tolerate outdated and inefficient election

Mrs. Benson went on: "...I sincerely believe that
the Leagues will play an absolutely critical

"It has been said to me that perhaps it would have
been better for the League - and its nonpartisan-
ship - if this campaign could have been undertaken
in a non-presidential election year. That is, with-
out association with the fanfare and emphasis that
both the Republicans and Democrats are placing on
registration drives.


"My own opinion is that we couldn't have asked for
a better time or a better opportunity. Or better
coat tails to ride on. Of course, both parties
have their own agenda and goals. Both will be
spending millions of dollars and person hours on
registration and voting efforts.

"But that's not our business. We have only one
item on our agenda - to get rid of the archaic, in-
efficient and sometimes downright sloppy practices
which characterize the election system in too
many communities across the country.

"We couldn't care less about what candidate or
party might be helped or hurt by this campaign. We
do care, as we have for the past 52 years, about
seeing to it that e^ery individual has open and
easy access to the ballot box...

"There's not another organization in this country
that has the kind of election clout and leverage
that the League has. We're a respected source of
voting information and help; in many communities
we're registrars and poll watchers; our members
know the election system, backwards and forwards.
And we are clean - not linked to any candidate or
party. With this kind of background and reputa-
tion, the strategies you evolve [at the conference]
can be a tremendously potent force for effecting
election system changes.

"And we're certainly not advocating radical
changes. Setting up mobile registration units; ad-
justing registration hours to conform to work pat-
terns; training election workers to help not con-
fuse voters; opening polling places on time; hav-
ing voting machines in working order; publicizing
voting information and sample ballots; reaching
out for voters instead of turning them away.


"They're really very small, common sense steps -
so much so that it seems incredible that they
aren't part and parcel of every election system in
the country. They're not - or we wouldn't be [at
the Conference] ..."

Both Republican Party Co-chairman Ann Armstrong
and Democratic Party Chairman Jean Westwood com-
mended the League for its continuing effort to
make it possible for every eligible voter to regis-
ter and cast his ballot.


Participants met in small caucuses three times dur-
ing the Conference to discuss strategies and tac-
tics applicable to their own settings - small
cities, urban, rural and suburban communities.
Throughout the Conference, League members were
urged to look beyond traditional Voters Service
activities, invaluable though these are, to devis-
ing ways to remove administrative obstacles to
voting before November.

Many went home with plans to do just that.

A tape

recording of the


ce on Ex-

panding the Electorate,


, just as

it was.

, is available from the Le

ague of

Women Voters Education F

"und for

$5.00 per

set of

cassettes. Order #147.


The National Urban League has recently established
a Citizenship Education Department to spearhead an


intensive voter registration drive among blacks in
ten target cities this fall:

Sacramento, California New Brunswick, New Jersey

Stamford, Connecticut Battle Creek, Michigan

Indianapolis, Indiana Flint, Michigan

Fort Wayne, Indiana Columbus, Ohio

Springfield, Illinois Dayton, Ohio

The project will also attempt to reach Puerto
Ricans, Chicanos and American Indians.

According to Weldon Rougeau, director of the new
department, efforts will be concentrated in these
small -to-medium size cities because "small cities
have historically been neglected when it comes to
voter registration."

The project will also focus on administrative ob-
stacles to voting as they affect black citizens.
Area directors will attempt to make obstacles to
voting a public issue in the target cities. A re-
cently published booklet. Abridging the Right to
Vote: A Study of State Restriction and Black Poli-
tical Participation , deals with obstacles result-
ing from inefficient election administration on
the state level as well as those resulting from
laws which disenfranchise black citizens. The
booklet also highlights problems of black under-
representation in elected positions and low voter
turnout among blacks in general elections.

Rougeau is encouraging his project directors in
the ten cities to form coalitions with other local
groups. Write to Mary Stone, Administrator of the
Election Systems Project, League of Women Voters
Education Fund, 1730 M Street, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20036 for the name and address of the pro-
ject director in your area.



About 140 Catholic nuns from all over the United
States recently attended a week-long seminar on
social welfare in Washington, D.C. This national
organization, called NETWORK, was formed to en-
courage involvement among sisters in community and
national issues. NETWORK hopes to channel sisters
into action-oriented organizations in their local
communities, such as the League of Women Voters,
according to Sister Semmon. Moreover, many NET-
WORK members have expressed an interest both in
voter registration and in working to eliminate ad-
ministrative obstacles to voting.

Recalling the advice of action expert Althea
Simmons at the August Conference about the influ-
ence of religious leaders in many communities.
Leagues may want to explore the possibility of ob-
taining NETWORK womanpower for local registration
and voting campaigns. For a NETVJORK contact in
your area, write to Sister Carol Coston, c/o NET-
WORK, 1124 McKenna Walk, N.W., Washington, D.C.

This is the first of a series of Election
Systems Project COMMUNIQUES that will re-
port the work of Leagues and other organ-
izations to bring about "voter liberation"
through administrative change. COMMUNIQUES
are being sent to participants in the ESP
conference, to Leagues, to other citizen
organizations, and upon request for 10(t a

91-577 O — 73 10


SEPTEMBER 28, 1972

A number of Leagues of Women Voters throughout the
country are engaged in administrative lobbying of
local election officials in an effort to broaden
voter registration opportunities.


The LWV of the Rochester Metro Area, New York has
been involved in an on-going controversy with Monroe
County election commissioners-— and the League's
been winning.

Their campaign for "voter liberation" began in the
spring when, after the League and a student coali-
tion generated considerable public pressure, the
county legislators authorized deputy registrars to
conduct out-of-office registration before the June
primary. Authorization of deputy registrars must
come from the legislators, but there is no guaran-
tee that the election officials will agree to use
them. In this case, the legislators convinced the
election commissioners to allow League members to
become deputized. The result: League deputy reg-
istrars added 7,141 voters to the registration
rolls during the month of May at six colleges, all
county high schools, and a shopping center.

The League had offered to serve as deputies many
times in the past, but was invariably greeted with
excuses. The election commissioners worried about
costs - -the League agreed to absorb all costs in-
volved in the volunteer effort; they worried that
the League was unfamiliar with the residency re-


quirements for students — the League informed them
that members had just completed a study on student

Following the unprecedented success of the May reg-
istration drive, the League submitted a report to
both the county legislators and election commiss-
ioners stating, "The overwhelming response to de-
centralized, accessible registration. . .shows that
we have found a better way." Ironically, the of-
ficials viewed the successful volunteer effort in
terms of its cost-cutting potential, and are con-
sidering the possibility of leaning more heavily on
volunteers for work in local registration efforts,
according to Chairman Jean Askham. "Success", she
remarked, "is filled with all sorts of pitfalls."

Nevertheless, the Rochester League joined the Monroe
County Coalition for Voter Registration and con-
vinced the legislators and commissioners to continue
volunteer out-of-office registration through the
summer. Twenty-three thousand voters were regis-
tered by 350 deputy registrars at factories, shop-
ping centers, rock concerts and the like.

Registration was scheduled to close on September 5
in New York, but a court order extended the dead-
line to September 23. The election officials, how-
ever, decided to limit registration to the central
office during the extension period. The official
reason for discontinuing the volunteer registration
effort: too much paperwork.

Although the coalition did not take action, Mrs.
Askham and two coalition labor representatives con-
tacted the local chapter of the American Civil Lib-
erties Union to investigate the possibility of lit-
igation. On the day the suit was to be filed, the
election commissioners relented and agreed to con-
tinue out-of-office registration.

Said Mrs. Askham: "I think I've learned that the
traditional League way is not aggressive enough."
She cited the need for more intensive administra-
tive lobbying of election officials



The LWV of the Greater York Area, Pennsylvania, per-
suaded their local election officials to conduct an
experiment in voter registration. The result: a
record number of voters were enrolled during three
sessions at shopping malls throughout York County.

The county commissioners were opposed to the plan
at first, but following League-initiated public
pressure and negotiation, the officials agreed to
send teams of registrars to the shopping centers.
Local newspapers also cooperated with the York
League by publicizing the dates and times of the
mall registration, as well as registration require-
ments. News stories recounting the success of the
registration efforts, political cartoons and an ed-
itorial applauding the League's initiative followed.

During the first mall sitting, 559 voters were en-
rolled; the second mall registration broke all rec-
ords for a single voter registration sitting, with
650 names added to the registration lists. Pres-
ident of the County Commissioners Charles A. Stein,
who had opposed the League's proposal, was pressed
into service at two of the sittings to handle the
overflow crowds.

Previously, voter registration had been permitted
only in the courthouse, municipal buildings, or
fire houses. The convenience of shopping center
registration was cited as a major factor for the
large turnout. One League member remarked, "Some-
times people are frightened to come to the court-
house. Here at the mall they can register while
they're out shopping."

Some States Hang On

Most states have now abolished durational residency
requirements for voting, and Leagues in many areas
have helped to effect the change.

Last spring, in Dunn v. Blumstein , the Supreme Court
ruled that durational residence requirements for


voting in any election are unconstitutional. The
Court held that bona fide residence is a legiti-
mate qualification for voting, but that duration of
residence as a prerequisite to voting is illegal
because it is not related to any compelling state
interest. The Court rejected Tennessee's argument
that such requirements were necessary to prevent
fraud. The Court affirmed the right of states to
close registration some time before an election in
order to verify the accuracy of registration lists
and suggested 30 days as a reasonable period.

Some states have complied voluntarily with the
Blumstein decision in response to rulings by
Attorneys-General or Secretaries of State; some
changed as a result of court action. Many state LWV
units contacted their respective attorneys-general
to inquire about their state's compliance. The use
of litigation as a tactic in getting administrative
obstacles to voting removed was one suggestion that
emerged from the ESP conference.

Several state and local Leagues have participated
in suits seeking to broaden registration. Those
states in which there is still some question about
compliance with the Blumstein decision are: *






New Jersey
New Mexico
South Dakota

* The litiga
this list is
press, late

Litigation in process.

Litigation in process.

32-day residence requirement coin-
ciding with 32-day closing perio«

50-day period for closing books is
being challenged in court.

Litigation in process.

60 days required in township; being
challenged in court.

40 days for local elections.

40 days for local elections.

42 days

Litigation in process.

Litigation in process.

Litigation in process.

tion situation is constantly changing;
as up-to-date as possible as we go to



The auditor of Scott County, Iowa, and the chairmen
of the Democratic and Republican parties in the
county have announced their commitment to register
90% of the eligible citizens for the upcoming pres-
idential election. The pledge to work for a goal
of 90% registration came at the suggestion of the
LWV of Scott County.

When Voters Service Committee member Mary Ellen
Chamberlin reported to the local board about the
LWVEF Conference on Expanding the Electorate, they
were intrigued by the suggestion that setting a tar-
get registration rate could stimulate community and
official enthusiasm for voter registration efforts.

Mrs. Chamberlin approached County Auditor George
0x1 ey, who in turn, contacted the local party chair-
men. The three, along with Voters Service Chairman
Jill Eastin, held a press conference on August 31
to declare their intention to work for full voter
participation. The League tied some of its local

PR to the President's proclamation of September as
Voter Registration Month, and to endorsements of
full voter participation made at the LWVEF Confer-
ence by Democratic Party Chairman Jean Westwood and
Republican Party Co-Chairman Ann Armstrong, call-
ing on local officials to match that commitment.

A recent change in Iowa's election law has placed
primary responsibility for elections administration
with the secretary of state, delegating the duties
of election commissioner and registrar to the county
auditors. As part of Oxley's program of organizing
the voter registration rolls by bringing together
registration files from Davenport, Bettendorf and
the county's rural areas, cards were sent to all
registered voters to verify the information in the
files. For various reasons, 12,000 cards were re-
turned to the auditor's office as undeliverable.
Since a voter verification card returned as unde-
liverable is grounds for purging, 0x1 ey and the
Scott County League are trying to insure that no
voter is purged inadvertently.


League members have put in over 100 woman-hours of
volunteer time during the past three weeks to assist
0x1 ey by sorting and alphabetizing the inaccurate
cards so that the auditor's office may determine why
the cards were returned and make every effort to
have the files in good order before election day.
0x1 ey has also set up counter displays in stores
throughout the Davenport business district contain-
ing change-of-address cards so that citizens can
notify him of any change in address.

Both major political parties have launched voter
registration drives in the county. The Republicans
will be canvassing to find unregistered voters and
will refer them to branch registration sites, while
the Democrats will concentrate on door-to-door reg-
istration. Leaguers who ran a branch registration
drive during July and August succeeded in register-
ing 2700 voters. They have also translated voter
information materials into Spanish for the benefit
of the county's Chicano residents.

These are selected stories, illustrative of activ-
ities that Leagues everywhere are undertaking.





On a cold and rainy Tuesday, Michigan voters suffer-
ed through one of the most confusing and wearying
election days in the state's history. They had to
cope with a long, complex ballot and contradictory
court decisions on when the polls were to close.
Most officials cited the "bedsheet" ballot as the
major cause of the election day problems. The De-
troit Free Press quoted City Clerk George Edwards:
"Democracy is just running amok on us. We have
670,000 people to walk into these polls and make
76 decisions." Some voters needed 15 minutes to
complete the ballot.

As it became apparent during the day that Detroit's
voter turnout was lagging far behind comparable 1968
figures, several groups of Democratic lawyers sought
a two-hour extension of the 8 p.m. closing time.

A dizzying sequence of events followed: a federal
judge refused to take jurisdiction in a case to keep
the polls open additional hours; a circuit court
judge later ruled that the polls could remain open;
then the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the
polls must close; and finally, the Michigan Supreme
Court refused to take action, thus upholding the
Michigan appellate court's ruling. In fact, the
polls closed at approximately 9:15 p.m.


Although Edwards had initiated an ambitious regis-
tration drive which tapped hundreds of volunteers
including members of the LWV of Detroit and enroll-
ed 87% of eligible citizens, voter turnout for the
election was only 60% compared to 79% in 1968.

Detroit was not the only Michigan city to experi-
ence problems: students in Ann Arbor were piled up
800 deep at one point, as predicted waiting time
approached 6-8 hours; other university precincts
reported 5 hour waits; and voters in Detroit sub-
urbs lined up 100-200 deep.


Long lines and even longer waiting periods plagued
Colorado voters during the November election. Des-
pite efforts by concerned citizen groups, the state
Supreme Court refused jurisdiction in a suit seek-
ing a three-hour extension of polling hours in 18
counties using voting machines. The suit was filed
on November 2, 1972, by the League of Women Voters
of Colorado and the Legal Aid Society of Metro-
politan Denver.

In the petition requesting that the polls stay open
three hours longer than provided by law, Jeremy
Shamo^, the plaintiffs' attorney, submitted data
indicating that if 85% of the registered voters in
the state's 10 most populous counties cast ballots,
the polls would have to remain open up to 24 hours
to accommodate them. That estimate was based on a
state-wide voter turnout of 84% in the 1968 elec-
tion. Shamos calculated that voters would probably
need an average of four minutes to vote because of
the complexity of the Colorado ballot.

The plaintiffs based their suit on a law providing
that those portions of the election law which con-
flict with the use of voting machines can be waived
in counties where the machines are used.

Although the law permits persons to vote who are
waiting in line when the polls close, the lawyer


declared in the Denver Post , "this is an empty
right" if the line at 7 p.m. appears to be sever-
al hours long.

As it turned out, there were substantial delays in
many counties throughout the state, but Arapahoe
and Larimer seemed to be the hardest hit:
- In Arapahoe County, waiting periods resulting
from too few voting machines were aggravated by the
existence of a write-in campaign which further
slowed the voting process. However, one voter who
stood in line for three hours remarked, "People were
yery congenial, holding places in line while others
went out and got hamburgers. It was like a cocktail
party without the cocktails." County Clerk and Re-
corder Marjorie Page told the Littleton Independent :
"Now I think we'll get more voting machines. I have
requested more voting machines e\/ery year from the
commissioners but the money has always been spent
in other ways."

- Larimer County voters experienced particularly
long waits. The county had provided only 130 vot-
ing machines to accommodate a population of 54,000
registered voters. Waits of up to four hours were

In its rejection of the suit filed by the League of
Women Voters and the Legal Aid Society, the Court
called the plaintiffs' allegations "hypothetical
and speculative."


Thousands of voters in New York City braved frus-
trating delays to obtain court orders enabling them
to vote, according to the New York Times .

Twenty-nine special "election courts", set up
throughout the city to handle challenges, somewhat
alleviated Election Day confusion caused in part
by erroneous registrations taken during a massive
community registration effort. Many of the chal-
lenged voters indicated they had signed up during
the sidewalk registration drive, but were not
listed in their precinct's poll book.


The problem was further complicated by a court-or-
dered extension of the registration deadline to
September 23, 1972, causing delays in processing
registration forms. An estimated 450,000 citizens
were registered during the drive.

This COMMUNIQUE includes a sampling of election day
irregularities which have been reported to the
Election Systems Project. These and other reports
which come in will be very useful to us in prepar-
ing two handbooks, one on monitoring registration
and voting, the other on selection and training of
election workers. The handbooks will be available
this spring.


A model registration and election adminis-
tration system, with accompanying statutory
proposals, is now available from the Nation-
al Municipal League, 47 East 68th Street,
New York, New York, 10021.


When poll workers in Clarion County, Pennsylvania,
made their pre-election supply pick-up at the
county courthouse, they received much more than
just ballot boxes and poll books.

The officials participated in an unusual workshop
developed by the League of Women Voters of Clarion
County and the Institute on Human Ecology of North-
western Pennsylvania, with the cooperation of the
county commissioners. The session was designed to
test the officials* ability to cope with those seem-
ingly inevitable election day emergencies.

Students from the Institute's Youth Leadership Task
Force presented a series of skits written and di-


rected by League member Jane Schautz. Most of the
hypothetical situations depicted problems within
the realm of possibility, such as the voter who was
unable to sign her name because her hands were ban-
daged from a recent burn or the partisan who per-
sisted in encouraging people to vote for Dr. Spock.
Others incorporated a touch of whimsy: one voter
arrived at polls with her dog in tow - -a Saint
Bernard who proceeded to chew up two ballots.

At the end of each presentation, Ms. Schautz asked
members of the audience to resolve the problems

The poll workers received a digest of election laws
and general instructions from Jay Van Bruggen, a
professor at Clarion State College and workshop
advisor. James Green, Commissioner of the Penn-
sylvania Bureau of Elections, briefed them on the
most recent changes in the law.

League President Helen Redfern's assessment of the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Committee on PostVoter registration. Hearings, Ninety-third Congress, first session, on S. 352 and S. 472. Feb. 7, 8, and March 16, 1973 → online text (page 14 of 28)