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

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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 15 of 28)
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session: "Definitely effective. I liked the way
the students, taking the parts of election offi-
cials and somewhat befuddled voters, played up the
mistakes that can happen on Election Day. It was
amazing the way the audience participated and
caught the mistakes and asked questions."

She estimated that more than 200 poll workers, rep-
resenting all but three of the county's precincts,
attended the workshop.


The National Urban League reports that 68% of the
registered minority voters in seven of its ten tar-
get cities voted during the general election.

That figure compares favorably with a national vot-
er turnout of 54.5%, suggesting that the voter reg-
istration and get-out-the-vote campaign waged by


NUL's Citizenship Education Department had a signi-
ficant impact on black political participation.

The report is based on samplings from precincts in
10 cities where the Urban League worked with local
civic groups, churches and black businessmen's or-
ganizations to increase minority voter turnout.
Thirty-three percent of the eligible but unregis-
tered blacks in the 10 cities were enrolled.

Urban League efforts included a survey of local reg-
istration practices to pinpoint administrative ob-
stacles, pressure for deputy registrars and neigh-
borhood registration sites, mobilization of commun-
ity organizations and a multi -media publicity cam-

Said Department Director Wei don Rougeau: "I think
we have to say that in those precincts where we
know we worked, our promotional campaign was prob-
ably yery beneficial in getting out the vote."


In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, inmates awaiting trial
or convicted of misdemeanors were granted the
right to vote in the general election by a U.S.
District Court. On October 27, 1972, the court
ordered the county Board of Elections to pro-
vide printed paper ballots to inmates who were
registered voters in the county. The court
ruling also required county election officials
to furnish the manpower needed to conduct the
election at the county jail and Cleveland city
workhouse, and to have the ballots counted.
[ Love V. Hughes (N.D. Ohio)].


The Chairman. It is 12 noon. We have two witnesses left.. I have
to be with the Hearst scholars at 12:30, so I would like to proceed
with the remaining witnesses with that thought in mind.

We have as our next witness Ms. Marie Garber, elections adminis-
trator for Montgomery County, Md. Since that is my resident county,
and we are deeply concerned with how things have transpired, we are
doubly delighted to have you with us.



Ms. Garber. You are one resident about whom I have no question
as to why you are not registered with us.

The Chairman. Let the record show that I am registered in Wyo-
ming and always vote there.

Ms. Garber. I would expect that you would. Some elections are set-
tled by narrow margins.

Mr. Chairman, I am elections administrator for Montgomery
County, Md. My community is the northwest suburb of the Washing-
ton metropolitan area.

Today I appear to support the concept of voter registration by
mail, and to say that I believe S. 352 would provide the framework
for a good mail registration system.

I have be€n an election official for 6 years, during which time I have
become increasingly concerned about the number of people who do
not vote. In all parts of the country and for all offices, participation
in elections is so low as to threaten the effectiveness of representat'.ve
government. A man elected by vote of only half the eligible citizens
he governs can hardly be deemed the choice of the people — only the
winner among those who voted.

Judging from the experience of my community as well as what has
been reported throughout the country, most nonvoters are also not
registered. In Montgomery Coimty we have 320,000 people qualified
for voting ; last November 240,000 did vote.

The Chairman. Roughly about one-third, is it, did not vote?

Ms. Garber. One-fourth. And of those 80,000 nonvoters, 50,000 were
not registered and therefore would have been turned away at the polls
if they had tried to vote.

Most State and local systems do not provide the kind of registration
opportunity to attract the largest possible number of voters. Sometimes
this is a result of failure to break out of old operational patterns which
do not fit changed conditions. In many places, elections agencies are
neither staffed nor funded for effective registration. In some in-
stances — my own is one such — the requirements of State law impose
constraints which limit registration volume.

In Montgomery County for the past 4 years, we have used every
method of enrolling citizens which is permitted by law. Our policy is to
bring registration to the people. We register voters in five different
shoppine; centers every Thursday evening all year round, election year
or not. We hold registration in all high schools, the junior colleges, and
at the University of Maryland. We send registrars to retirement homes,
the county fair, nursing homes, PTA's, community centers, and nat-


uralization ceremonies. If we cannot supply registrars on request of a
community group, we train their volunteers to conduct the registration
and we provide only the supervision.

Local government has been willing to fund our aggressive program.
The socioeconomic makeup of our county is such that citizen motiva-
tion is very high. You might say we have everything going for us — an
aggressive elections agency, adequate funding, and an informed citi-
zenry. If personal-appearance registration could be a success, this
would be the place. But no. In November 1972, the presidential gen-
eral election in which we hit the peak in v^oter turnout, one of every
four qualified citizens in my county did not A^ote.

The Chairman. By "qualified," you mean having been registered and
met the eligibility requirements?

Ms. Garber. Right ; and I have already taken off 10 percent of the
adult population to take account for aliens and people who are transi-
ents. Further, we have a large number in Montgomery County who
choose to keep their political base some place else.

In the years when we elect our State and local officials, the number
of nonregistered. and therefore nonvoters, is even higher — perhaps
70,000. In absolute terms this is a considerable number. In the context
of the margin by which local elections are won, it is a critical number.
Our present county executive, elected in 1970, won office by 420 votes,
and one of our State legislators was elected by 47 votes.

Since I see no prospect, by present means, of reaching the people
of rny community who do not register and therefore do not vote, I am
anxious that new methods be developed.

Having said why I favor new registration methods let me make
some observations about the measure you are considering today.

First, registration by mail can work. We know it can because we
have been doing it for a long time. It started with the Soldier Vote
Law in 1944, and has been expanded steadily since then. In Maryland,
we now register by mail not only the serviceman and his family, but
also the Foreign Service and their families, the merchant marine,
and Armed Forces auxiliaries. For years there has been mail regis-
tration for the ill and disabled. Since' the 1970 Voting Rights Amend-
ments Act we have added mail registration for any citizen of Maryland
who is away from home the last month of registration prior to any
election. In all these mail registrations, there is no face-to-face oath-
taking; the citizen's own signature under penalties of perjury is suf-
ficient attestation.

Incidently, for the 1972 general election 1,000 of our 41,000 new
registrations were mail registrations.

The Chairman. We collect income tax bv mail. I am just trying
to emphasize the point you are making. Here is really the heart of
our fiscal program in terms of legislating funds federally. We do
it by mail, not by some other form of affidaidt before a swearing
authority, and that sort of thing.

Ms. Garber. Second, the system you are considering will require
the States to actively seek the citizen's enrollment as a voter. This is
a new departure which I believe will enroll citizens who would not
become voters if left to their own initiative.

Third, the system would permit the development and definition,
within each State, of procedures and guidelines to insure accuracy


in compilation of voter lists and to prevent fraudulent registration
and voting. Direction, guidance, and supervision will be absolutely
essential in designing and implementing the new methods- Federal
officials should consult with each State's officials to work out procedures
which fit that State's needs. State officials, in turn, can communicate
the new methods and materials to local elections agencies.

Fourth, Federal funding will make it possible for many local agen-
cies and officials to do a better job than they have been doing. As I
said earlier, many of them have not even been funded to cope with the
load they have had until now. If their responsibility is to be increased,
there will have to be a way to pay the cost.

Fifth, mail registration can allevialte the problem of the predead-
line rush. No matter how abundant is the year-round opportunity for
registration, it is our experience that very many people delay until
the final weeks before the deadline. Last summer, for instance, we
registered 40,000 new voters in Montgomery County during the 5
months preceding the presidential election — 15,000 of them in the
last 10 days. I have no doubt that hundreds, perhaps thousands, more
would have enrolled had there been no wait, but the mere sight of
the long lines was enough to convince them to remain nonvoters. If,
however, the voter need only get the card in the mailbox by a deadline
date, many of these will be registered and — if experience is a guide,
will vote.

Let me make one other comment in conclusion. Much has been
written in the past couple of years about declining voter turnout
and the reasons for it. A favorite target for blame is the election
official. It is said that election officials really do not want people to
vote, and that they purposely make the registration process an ob-
stacle course in order to discourage voting. Now I do not know all
election officials, but I am well acquainted with my fellow profes-
sionals in Maryland and in a number of other jurisdictions in the
country. For these people and for myself I can assure you : We want
the people to vote. We also want fair and accurate elections. If those
goals are achieved we have done a good job, and will enjoy the satis-
faction and recognition that comes with a job well done. Please give us
the support we need to do our job well.

The Chairman". Thank you very much for that very excellent

You indicated in there, Ms. Garber, that yours is an exceptionally
unique area anyway, which we all understand, and yet in spite of its
unique components that would tend to raise the sophistication of par-
ticipation in the whole area, you are still up against the problems.

One of the intimations that you had in your testimony was that
you do everything that you can within the law; that perhaps laws
inhibit your efforts. Are these State laws, county laws ?

Ms. Garber. State law requires face-to-face registration unless you
happen to be ill or absent. If you are in town and you are well, you have
to come in person and sign registration forms which registrars have
to fill out in duplicate for you with pen and ink. It is an embarrassingly
inefficient system.

The Chairman. That does happen to a few of us in the income tax,
but we hope it does not happen.


I think once more the simplicity of all that is involved in the regis-
tering process for voting is so considerable in contrast to the money
collecting proclivities of the income tax system, that it has to remain a
public embarrassment to us, that the one we have reduced to the sim-
ple process of using the mails; the other we continue to obstruct by
one sort of obf uscation or another in the process.

I must say I am proud at least to claim to be a resident of your

Ms. Garber. We are proud to have you.

The Chairman. Thank you very much.

Our next witness this morning is Ms. Catharine Barrett, president
of the National Education Association.

I say welcome, Ms. Barrett, and as a former dues paying member of
the NEA, I always welcome a member of the club to testify before
this club.


Ms. Barrett. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is nice to
see you again after hearing your talk at one of our meetings last year.
We enjoyed it veiy mucli.

As you have indicated, I am president of the National Education
Association. With me at the table are Rosalyn Hester and Charles
Olsen, both of whom are members of our goverimient relations staff
at NEA.

You know, of course, that NEA is the largest professional organiza-
tion in the United States. Along with the combined membership of our
State and local affiliates, NEA represents some 2 million of the Na-
tion's teachers and other educators. I am pleased to have this oppor-
tunity to present the views of the association endorsing S. 352 as a
means to facilitate and increase voter registration nationwide. Such
legislation is vitally important if we are to attain greater citizen par-
ticipation in our democi'acy.

First, I want to commend this committee for its fine work in this
area during the 92d Congress. We look forward to continuing to work
with the chairman and other members of this committee to secure
enactment of S. 352 during this session of Congress.

The National Education Association has long recognized the impor-
tance of voting and citizen involvement in the political process.
Through political education programs, we have attempted to increase
the political awareness and involvement of our teacher members. At
the same time, we have learned of the many obstacles to full political

Let me cite a few examples. One of our main projects last year was
to assist eligible high school students become registered voters. Teach-
ers across the country developed citizenship education curriculums cen-
tering on the new young voter and organized special drives to register
students in the high schools. The success of teacher efforts was directly
related to the cooperation received from local registrar's and the acces-
sibility of the voter registration process. We found registrars who

91-577— 7r, 11


would not come to the high schools to register voters although they
were permitted by law to do so. In othei- places, we had to cajole
registrars into registering students when brought to their offices or
to deputize students or teachers as registrars when unfilled slots ex-
isted. Recognizing the need for an accessible registration process, our
affiliate in 'Washington State is working with leaders in the State
legislature to enact a bill mandating the placement of a voter registrar
in each high school.

In our "work with teacher members and with newly enfranchised
voters, it has become apparent that the most glaring barriers to
political participation are those related to the process of becoming
a registered voter. Thus, in July 1972, the NEA Representative As-
semblv reaffirmed its mandate "* * * to seek legislation that woiild
provide uniform registration requirements for all elections * * *."'
We believe that S. 352 best meets that criterion.

The exercise of the franchise is the most basic and fundamental
expression of citizen participation in Government. Voting is the verv
cornerstone of our democracv. In recent years. Conerress has made
great strides to extend the franchise and eliminate the obstacles to
voting. The Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and 1970, the elimination
of the poll tax, and lowering the voting age to 18 are but a few

Yet. while the number of potential voters has increased, the num-
ber of persons who actually vote has declined. Why a decline in
voting? Many would answer with such pat phrases as apathv, no
interest in politics, lack of faith in Government nnd such. These
reasons may indeed reflect why some do not vote. But thev do not
account for the millions of Americans who would vote if they were
registered. Trends and analyses show that 6 out of 10 Americans
vote; but 9 out of 10 registered Americans vote. It seems that the
real culprit in low voter turnout is our restrictive system of voter

Yes, we believe that the Congress has done a erood job in broad-
ening the franchise, but Congress hns done nothing to help those
Americans move bevond the registration barrier so that they may
exercise their own franchise.

America's population is constantly and increasingly mobile. Amer-
ica's teachers are no exception. Not only do teachers find it desirable
or necessary to change emplovment withm a S^ate, but significant
numbers move at least once across State lines. For mobile America,
registration laws have become an effective method of excluding a
sizable portion of the population from voting.

Registration laws ncross the coimtry are a hodgepodge of va^ipd
proceduT-es and practices. Often svstems of reo-istration vary within
a sriven State. The=e systems are often operated at the discretion ^f
the rec-istration officials, not for the coTivenience and benefit of the
prospective voter. No other democracv takes such a passive role in
voter registration. We must devise a svstem of registration tlmt will
no lono-er cheat millions of Amen^ans out of their votinq; rip-hts.

Wc believe that the exercise of the fvanchise is the rig^^t of evf^rv
eligible American. It is not the privilege of the hiThlv motivit^cd "f^v>'
who can find their way through the complex maze of registration


procedures. This is why we are here today. We urge this committee to
once again favorably report legislation that would effectively stand-
ardize registration procedures, make the procedures accessible to all
Americans, and uncomplicate the registration process. We believe the
enactment of S. 352 would accomplish these objectives and thus en-
courage greater citizen participation in the electoral process.

The Chairman. I want to thank you, Ms. Barrett, for the efforts of
NEA in understanding the needs of this and what it is all about as
we seek to arrive at a wise step forward in this.

The Congress tried last year, but we fell a couple of votes short
of succeeding in the Senate.

One of the fears that was very conspicuous was that if we registered
them too fast last year some of them might vote wrong. This was ex-
pressed very fi-equently aroimd the floor. Others on the other side of
the fence were deliberately delaying registering them by any means
they could because they thought they might vote right.

It was caught up in the emotions of an election year. Roth sides were
wrong in letting that be a reason which militated against registering
more and more voters. But we are free of that this year, and hope-
fully we can take the higher approach.

The fear of fraud was also constantly raised. We have learned in all
facets of life that vou do have reason to fear fraud, but you cannot
stoD moving as you live in fear.

You have to move forward, and the instances of fraud in reffistra-
tion are penny-ante things; they are really not substantive at all so
far on tb.e record, and yet few bother to weigh in the balance the
fraud of 50 million people not voting or 62 million people not vot-
ing or whatever the numbers may be, from election to election.

This is not going to cure all that. Tt does not pretend to, but if we
can add another 5 million or ]0 million or 15 million voters to the
rolls, we will have made a significant contribution toward arriving
at what has to be our ultimate expectation, and that is that Amei-icans
who meet other requirements — namely — age and citizenship, this sort
of thinar — must be not only endowed with the privilege of voting and
the right to vote ; I think we ought to be searching for ways to require
the responsibility to vote.

I am not prepai'ed to say how we can achieve that. It is easier to
make a speech about it than to spell out just how, because there are
those of us who remind us they have the freedom to reject all the
candidates and not vote.

But I think that is a double thing. They ought to reject, if they do
not like the persons, but I am not sure we ought to let them get off
without signing a ballot saving a curse on all your houses.

I think we ought to devise a mechanism that ultimately would re-
quire th.i-ough i^enaltv every eliffible person to 0:0 to the doIIs and vote
even if they vote zero, but to sign a ballot so that they have indulged
the i^rocess.

If they cannot accept either or any of the major candidates, or do not
want to, that is their business, but they ought to be left no excuse for
just not o-oino; to the polls.

To go back to the income taxes, I would just as soon stay home from
the income tax and not fill my form out, but at least you have to fill
it out, and you have to be recorded, and I think somewhere in there


is the formation of an approach that might also help us in the higher
incidence of voting at the polls.

I want to thank your group again for your great understanding on
this issue.

Ms. Barrett. We concur with your views, and you may be sure we
will be there working with you.

The Chairman. The committee will adjourn this session of the
hearing, and we will resume tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.

(At 12:30 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.)



U.S. Senate,
Committee on Post Office and Civel Service,

Washington^ D.C.

The committee met, pursuant to recess, at 10 :05 a.m. in room 6202,
Dirksen Office Building, Senator Gale W. McGee (chainnan of the
committee) presiding.

Staff members present: David Minton, staff director and counsel;
Rod Crowlie, associate staff director ; Dan Doherty, professional staff
member ; Andrew E. Manatos, legislative assistant.

The Chairman. The committee hearing session will come to order.
This morning we are taking testimony on S. 352, a bill which I have
introduced to establish a national voter registration administration in
the Bureau of Census. The purpose is obvious.

We have to try to broaden the base of voter eligibility and to remove
a barrier to voter participation. We do not contend that this is going
to solve the problem of low-voter turnout. We do insist that whatever
empediments there may be in the way of potential voters must be
removed, and we will tackle the question of incentives and voter
relevance and all of this at other levels, but we are helpless to do some-
thing about portions of that low participation when there is difficulty
in registering.

Our first witness this morning is the distinguished legislative direc-
tor of the AFLf-CIO, Andrew Biemillier. Come on up and proceed as
you wish. It is good to have you here this morning.


Mr. Biemiller. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

For the record, my name is Andrew J. Biemillier. I am director of
the legislative department of the Department of the American Fed-
eration of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. I appre-
ciate the opportunity to appear before this committee.

I am accompanied by Kenneth Meiklejohn, one of our legislative

But there are millions who would vote but don't because they are,
in effect, locked out of the voting booth by voting laws as obsolete as
the 12-hour day. Indeed, many voting laws still on the books were
written in that unlamented era and should have been revised decades



Some figures shed light on the problems of registration and voting
in America and suggest that there is indeed far more than apathy
limiting participation of our citizens in the electoral process.

In 1968, 116 million Americans were over 21 years of acre and
eligible to vote in the presidential election that vear. Approximately
40 percent of these — some 47 million eligible citizens — did not vot«;
27 million were not even registered. In 1972, the situation was even

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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 15 of 28)