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 19 of 28)
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These various groups recognize that registration laws are an almost
insurmountable barrier to voting. Therefore, they all allocate consider-
able sums of money and use untold hours of manpower to work dili-
gently at the project of registration. Unfortunately, the registration


process is a treadmill to oblivion, for as fast as new registrants are
poured into one end of the system the newly ineligible are kicked out
at the other end. Anyone who has ever engaged in this process knows
how frustrating and enervating it can be. The sensation is one of work-
ing out of a bottomless pit.

There is another aspect of the registration problem that we often
choose to ignore. We have by law abolished the poll tax. Yet, for
many Americans a form of poll tax is still with us. For example, if
you live in Cleveland, Ohio, and you want to register to vote, you
pay a form of poll tax when you register at the Cuyahoga County
Board of Elections. Unless you register on the one day during the year
when there is countywide registration, you must take time off from
work to register between the hours of 8 :30 a.m. and 4 :30 p.m. and you
most also pay a fee between $1 and $2 to park your car while you reg-
ister at the board of elections. This is a much higher and crueler poll
tax than we ever paid during the days when the poll tax was legal.

On the other hand, if you live in North Dakota, you don't have to
register at all. That doesn't really sound like equal protection under
the law.

Those then are just two of the reasons why the Retail Clerks Inter-
national Association believes the Congress should adopt S. 352.

Our organization has approximately 650,000 union members, and
of that membership approximately 50 percent is 25 years old and
younger. We have a law which permits 18 and ol'der to vote, and we
find a poor turnout in that particular group of new young voters. We
are deeply concerned about it. We feel it is important that young citi-
zens vote. We reach out for the young members that we represent and
try to educate them of their civic duties. This is something new for
them, and yet we have a poor registration turnout. Perhaps it should
be mandatory, like the income tax filing that is required each year
so that these young citizens will know their responsibility in this

The Chairman. Let me add that we have some other mandatory re-
quirements that might offer us another alternative here. That is we
have to fill out a form for a social security card, and there is no choice
about it. They have to register for the draft. They do have to send in
an income tax form and they have to fill out a form for a driver's
license, that is mandatory if they are going to drive a car. Maybe some
mix of this requirement that already exists should also automatically
register them if they meet whatever minimal requirements that there
are, like 1 8 years old, and make them register from that time on. sub-
ject to updating for geographical reasons.

Mr. Panarello. Exactly, Mr. Chairman. We have another striking
example of the hardship imposed on our membership. Our retail
workers are required to work in stores that operate from approxi-
mately 9 o'clock in the moniing until 9. 10. or 11 at night, and we
have now some operations that are open 24 hours a day, 7 da^^s a
week. It becomes practically impossible with this type of operation
to recfister to vote.

We are convinced that the simple post card registration spelled
out in the bill is a workable and sound system. If the State of Texas
finds that it can effectively register voters by having them clip a


coupon from the daily papers and mailing it to the county clerk,
then certainly this system should work even more effectively.

We are also very impressed with the financial incentives offered
to the States to encourage them to adopt the post card registration
form for State elections. At a time when virtually all State govern-
ments are strapped for funds, this incentive program should prove
extremely attractive.

S. 352 would virtually set aside voter registration as a problem.
It would free the political parties and the civic-minded organiza-
tions who spend so much money and manpower on this project to
devote their energies and funds to much more important tasks in the
electoral process.

The Chairman. Thank you very much for your statement. Do you
see any problems that we present to you if we were to consider seriously
the mandatory route in some form — again it is not refined — either
requiring registration in Federal elections, which in effect would pro-
duce legislation for the States at the same time, or require the signing
of a ballot, which perhaps ought to be combined in the registering
process, as North Dakota does, however you do that? Would that
pose problems for you ?

Mr. Panarello. At the outset, without any careful study that would
be required, I can see no immediate problem it would present. I think
our membere would respond to that type of service, as is required
in the income tax, social security, and so forth. This could be another
requirement in the whole process of our democratic system which is
so important.

The Chairman. Professor Kimball has a real point on the princi-
ple of the whole business, that the moment you go into the mandatory
field, it is a worrysome process about how much is mandatory and
how mucii is incentive, the individual's own incentive.

I am one of those who has preferred to be very careful about en-
croachments on the individual's freedom of action, freedom of de-
cision, all of this sort of thin^. But I am bothered by the fact that
freedom requires responsibilities if it is going to remain free, that
the only ultimate freedom I suppose is in the jungle, and that includes
the free riglit to get chewed up by the next beast that comes along.
Once we start the process of civilization, whatever we mean
by that term, we have systematically eroded theoretical freedom in
the interests of the public good, primed to safeguard the abolition of
freedom in the name of freedom, safeguard against the abolition in the
name of it. So I guess frankly I am going to somewhat bring the
horse to the water, even if he does not drink. He chooses whether he
is thirsty enough to drink or whether he is disgusted enough not to
drink ; but at least we get him to the tank.

Mr. Panarello. Exactly.

The Chairman. That is something v,"e want to wrestle with here
as we try to find our way. hopefully v.isely through that area of un-
certainty. It may take an entirely different measure to achieve that
goal. I do not want to mix that up with the jurisdiction of this com-
mittee and the postcard system through the Bureau of the Census, but
it is a real interesting question, a troubling question.

Mr. Panarello. Yes.


The Chairman. We cannot babysit for everybody. We have to decide
what floor we believe we are required to put under society as we keep
raising its level of operations. The same old thing we run into with
communications, the media, we all appreciate freedom of the press,
the first amendment, the Constitution, but more skallawags have
hidden behind that in order to practice some policies against the civil-
ized processes of raising the level of understanding and the capability
of coming to grips with the new problems in the real world. It is a
tough and risky grey area that exists there, and we are all kind of hesi-
tant about plunging into it.

Mr. Panarello. I realize how complex it can be. One point that really
onroe?; to mv mind is here we are trying to get the people to exercise
their right to register to vote. This is the foundation. This is the proc-
ess where legislators are being elected and it is the laws that will govern
the land, and that is why it is incumbent upon the Government to see
that a svstem prevails that will permit the citizen to do that funda-
mental duty that he is supposed to do.

The Chairman. This particular proposal in S. 352 centers on the
Bureau of Census. Of course that becomes the case in point. Whether
we like it or not, we are enrolled under the census, and we are required
to get certain types of information, although there was disagree-
ment over what types you had to respond to. The States waggled
over some forms of the census. But it is still required now, and this
seemed to us to be a logical Federal mechanism, at least for Federal
elections, plus financial incentives that might encourage some of the
States to catch up with the 20th century.

Mr. Panarello. Exactlv.

The Chairman. Well I have no other questions at this particular
point. I want to thank vou verv much.

Our next witness is Mr. Jacob dayman, administrative director,
Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO.


Mr. r^LAYMAN. Mr. Chnirman. T am representing the Industrial
ITi'iion Denartment here this morning.

Firstly I want to thank vou, and our or.q-anization wants to thank
you for raisin;'" this issue and this discussion from the classroom to
ifche Senate Halls. I do not know how long I have listened over the
years, probably most of m^' life, to this essential discussion, how do
we get people rofristered ? How do we get them to vote ? How do
we make them take part in the basic democratic process of decision-

Jf sce^-'TS to ns thnt vou hnve taken one ma'iT'ificent stride forward
in breaking through a rather archaic trj^dition. I aui irettincr old
eiiou^'h to relv upon memories these davs. Several people have talked
al^oiit Ohio. I pom^ from T have wrestled with this issue in
Ohio. So if vou will excuse me, if T re1v upon mv Ohio experience,
altb^u,<Th I quickb' note that while Ohio is not ono of tlie better States
in the firea of registration voting, it is not one of the worst. I would
guess thnt it is fairly normal as ^'e define normal situation in this
area as far as States are concerned.

I remember 25 years ago when some of us wcT-e ti-ying to reform


the Ohio law, nowhere near as forward tlirusting as your bill or
the bill of Senator Kennedy, I had a discussion with I thought a
well meaning conservative State senator. His thesis was, and he meant
it earnestly, that simply extending the right, the privilege, was
enough, that there was no obligation upon the State or Government
to be aggressively active in the role of the encourager, persuader. I
suspect that debate essentially still goes on, and the likelihood in
one way or another it will be expressed on the floor of the Senate,
floor of the House as this bill makes its way through. I have always
entertained the notion, I hope it is not naive, that Government has
a duty not to be passive, but to be forward thrusting in the area of
registration and voting.

You have heard some stories about the city of Cleveland, and they
are true. Five days a week, Monday through Friday, there is an office
downtown in the hurly-burly of Cleveland, and it is open from 9 to
either 4:30 or 5 o'clock. It is never open otherwise. Those who can,
those who will come forward are given the privilege and right to
register and they do.

Of course what happens is that the registration is relatively low.
Once every 2 years before the election, in the precincts they may — not
that they must — they may have registration. That decision is made by
the local board of elections. That board of elections is composed of four
members, two Democrats and two Republicans designated by both
parties. If they disagree, and they do from time to time, some will say
we reallv do not need it, we do not need anv more registration in our
registration facilities than we have now, and it goes to the secretary
of the state. The secretary of the state makes the decision. The secre-
tary of the state uniformly makes the decision based upon his party

If his party is interested in easy registration, then he makes the
decision on the side of those who want more registration facilities or
vice versa. This will be true of Democrats, and this will be true of

But I turn to another city now because there is a fascinating experi-
ence in that city. They had one fascinating experience that indicates
the frail vessel we have in State governments for the growth of serious
registration, and that is the city of Cincinnati.

Back in 1966, mind you. 140 asso<^iations loined too-p^1-"^r nri^^ coiri
we want 1 day of registration on Sunday. I suspected the political
]3ressures wore such that the board of elections said very well, re-
luctantly. I am sure. Among the 140 organizations were the League of
Women Voters, the NAACP, the trade unions, a whole variety of
churches, so they had this registration. Apparently God was not on
the side of the 140 organizations because they had one hell of a rain
storm all day long on this great day when the community was gearing
for massive registration.

Notwithstanding the rainstorm and all, 22,000 people registered
on that day.

The Chairman. In 1 day?

Mr. Claymaist. On 1 day, on a Sunday. Now this was twice as much
as the Cleveland registration, which is a much larger city, in spite
of the storm, and the genei-al opinion was that had it been a 7iice day,
thev would have registered 40,000. and this would have been fantastic.

As it was they did a grand job.


Well, what is the result of this rather interesting story ? At the very-
first opportunity in the next session of the Ohio Legislature, they
passed a bill, made it into law, that there would never be local regis-
tration on Sundays.

The Chairman. Never on Sunday.

Mr. Clayman. Never on Sunday. INIind you, the churches were
deeply involved among these 140 organizations, and so in spite of this
outward resentment of God being on the side of those wanting to
register on Sunday, the legislature said it shall not be done. Of course,
all of us know why.

This was always the kind of unspoken debate. Why ? Why do some
want easy registration and why do some want difficult registration?
I do not want to spell out all the details.

Some of us prosper by easy registration, some of us prosper by very
small registration, difficult registration. This is the physical, moral
as well as practical fact in Congress and outside of Congress and
among the States.

Well this kind of situation that I have described to you about
Cincinnati leads me to a question, the voluntary approach, leads me
to the question that the States on their own, even with carrots, even
with lovely lumps of sugar, are prepared to do the job in our time —
are they ? My guess is that the normal Ohio Legislature is not prepared
to do that, the normal one. Occasionally, maybe every 10 or 15 years
you get an abnormal legislature. But the normal one will not, even
if the Federal Government put up all the money.

This worries me. I suspect that other States are in the Pame category.

Now I do not mean to demean the role of a lot of States that have
made some progress, and what I have said should not contain that

Now then, we recite all the statistics that you have heard over and
over again, and I do not think I shall recite those again for you, except
to say that there is an amazing degree of consensus on the statistics.
In ail my reading and all my probing, I find little dissent on the
numbers, and that is interesting because it is rare that you get the
controversial issue where there is not serious dispute about the numbers

There is one statistic I want to recite to you, and it makes a lot of
sense to me. I think it has been recited in a variety of ways to this
committee and others before. Over the years 6 out of 10 adult Amer-
icans vote. 6 out of 10, 60 percent, worse of course in the last election.
Nine out of 10 of those registered vote. According to preliminary
census data, 87 percent of those registered to vote in 1972 went to tlie
polls and voted on election day. Here we have 55 percent of the elec-
torate voting, and yet 87 percent of all those who registered, which
means to me at least that the process of registration imposes some kind
of ideological spur or psychological spur in the person himself who
registers who gets out and votes.

I think that statistics is terribly profound in the discussion of what
needs to be done in relation to the future, as we look to the greater
participation of Americans in the voting process.

Another statistic — and I will not recite the details, T am sure you
are familiar with them — it has been en^phasized in the room this
morning that the lower the economic level of the potential voters, the


citizens, the fewer register. I suppose that political philosophers and
sociologists, psychiatrists, might liave an answer for this, but this is
the literal lact. 1 am conhdent in my own mind, my own observations
that the difficulty of registration is one of the problems, and indeed
it may be one ot the major problems.

The bitter irony is that those who need the political process the most
in our country are those in a real sense who are victimized in part by
the elaborate scheme against easy registration.

We tliink your bill would go a long way in increasing the percentage
of the people who vote. We make the same point that the AFL^CIO
made. We would hope that you would include the language of your
bill of last year as we relate to Dunn v. Blumstein. 1 am sure you are
familiar of course with the issue, with the problem. So in conclusion
I certainly say thank you for your bill and more power to you. In this
Congress hopefully you will make this the law of the land in the
next few months.

The Chairman. I certainly appreciate your very moving and elo-
quent statement on this. I think on the point that Andy was raising
earlier that you allude to again, hoping we might restore the language,
we want to have a real look at that. It occurs to me that we may be
mixing up two things there, mixing up the content of the Voting
Rights Act of 1970 and the specifics of the Dunn and Blumistein deci-
sion, the two different things, and the one goes much further than
the other. So we want to have our legal staff have a look to make sure
that w^e have that resolved.

We just do not want it to slip by. That is the point. We want to
make sure everybody knows what the intention of the Congress was
here. So we will, thanks to the alerting that you have done here this
morning, give that close scrutiny.

Mr. Clatman. Obviously our concern is to tie down that 30-day
limitation. We think it makes sense; and as we move with jet speed
into the computer age, if we have not already arrived, the 30-day
limitation is easily manageable.

The Chairman. Particularly after at least the very first input of
this, it may be some problem as you start this process, but the moment
it is underway, the cumulative effect of it, I think, would contribute
very substantially to minimizing the mechanical and technical and
the volume of problems involved in it. But we know what many of your
experiences have been and certainly will seize your sense of urgency
in regard to removing this area as one of the obstructions to voter
participation, even though we are not sure how we can guarantee the
removal of other obstructions.

This is certainly one that can be legislated, legislated simply and
specifically and decisively by a simple act of Congress. Thank you
very much.

Mr. Clayman. Thank you.
The Chairman. We appreciate it.

The committee hearing will recess on the call of the chairman. We
have a recess of the Congress coming up. When we resume the re^lar
sessions of Congress, we will resume our time schedule for additional
hearings on this question.

(Whereupon at 12 noon, the committee was recessed to reconvene at

the call of the chair.)

(The prepared statement of Jacob dayman follows:)

91-577 O — 73 13




February 8, 1973

My name is Jacob Clayman, I am Administrative Director of the
Industrial Union Department of the American Federation of Labor and
Congress of Industrial Organizations. Affiliated with the Industrial Union
Department are 61 international unions with membership in excess of six
million. Our organization is deeply interested in standardizing and
modernizing registration and voting laws and has been for many years.

Let me recite an incident from my own experience which, I believe,
presents the central issue. Years ago, along with others, I was involved
in an earnest effort to induce the Ohio Legislature to reform an archaic
registration law which was exceedingly restrictive. I recall a discussion
with an intelligent conservative state senator who made the point that the
duty of governmient was merely to make available the opportunity to register
and vote to the citizens of Ohio but that it was not the duty of the state to
encourage registration and voting.

And therein lies the heart of the basic issue presented in S. 352.
Shall government nnerely make the opportunity to register and vote
physically available or shall government actively and aggressively
encourage and assist its citizens to participate in the democratic process?


The conversation I described above took place approximately 25 years
ago. The situation has not materially changed in Ohio since. Boards of
elections offices are still open from 9 to 4:30 or 5;00, five days a week. This
is the only place where a citizen may register during the average year. Every
two years there may or may not be, depending on the whim of the local boards
of elections, registratxOn in local areas. Ohio county boards of elections are
composed of two members from each party, designated by the party. If they
are in agreement, tley may permit the localized registration that I have just
described. If they are not in agreement, and this happens, the Secretary of
State makes the final decision. His decision is almost uniformly made on the
basis of his party politics.

I have said that nothing much has changed for the better in Ohio in the
area of voter registration. There is an interesting case in point of recent
vintage. In 1966 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a registration program was devised by
the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, church organizations and labor unions
which they called Operation REVUP. The board of elections was induced to
permit one day of precinct registration to take place on a Sunday. Unfortunately,
the Sunday in question produced miserable weather, a day-long rainstorm.
Notwithstanding, registration results were far better than normal.

What effect did this result have on state legislation to reform the law?
The then party in power at the earliest possible date thereafter passed a law
which prohibited any registration on Sundays! Apparently the legislature didn't
look kindly on successes of this nature.


And now to some of the statistics. We have just come through a political
campaign in which approximately 77 million Americans voted. This may sound
like a lot numerically but this figure represents only about 55% of all those who
were eligible to vote. It was the lowest turnout in a Presidential year since
1948 when 52% of all eligible citizens went to the polls. Of the 139 million
eligible to vote in the 1972 election, early reports suggest that about 100 million
were registered. Nearly 40 million did not register at all. Of the 100 million
who did, about 24 million - nearly 25% - did not go to the voting booths. If
these estimates are all accurate, this means that 62 million Americans did not

This is even more alarming when you compare this record with that of
other democracies in recent years. For example, i'l Germany in 1969, 86.7%
of those eligible voted; in Canada, in 1968, 75,7% of those eligible voted; in
Great Britain in 1970, 72% of those eligible voted, and in Norway in 1969, 82. 5%
of those eligible voted. And European and American political scientists believe
that the much higher voter participation abroad and in Canada is in major part
attributable to the ease of registration.

Many experts cite various reasons for the low voter performance in 1972.
Some of the reasons cited are as follows:

1. The anticipated Nixon landslide made many voters stay at home,

2. The failure of either Presidential candidate to generate truly
widespread excitement or enthusiasm may have limited the turnout.


After all the masterminding, the fact remains that a topmost factor in

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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 19 of 28)