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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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problems caused on election day by voter registration. You recog-
nize Governor Scranton's name, but what about the thousands of
others who suffered similar misadventures, and who were thereby
denied the most basic right of all in our democratic society, the right
to vote. The path to the polls on election day was a chamber of hor-
rors for countless citizens trying to exercise their right.

In New York City, thousands of eligible voters found themselves in
Governor Scranton's shoes because their registration records had dis-
appeared and they were forced to go through the ordeal of obtaining
a court order to let them vote. And it is estimated that for every voter
who lasted the marathon courthouse course and actually cast his
vote, at least two or three others fell along the way, and lost their right
to vote.

In St. Louis, thanks to a faulty canvass and preelection purge of
voting lists in mid-October, thousands of voters were erroneously
stricken from the rolls. Two thousand voters were reinstated by court
order, but many more never got to vote.

In Albuquerque, residents received a white slip of paper when they
registered, but they could not vote until they received a yellow voting
card by mail. For many new registrants, the yellow cards did not
arrive, and so, the day before the election, a State court ordered that
persons holding a white slip were eligible to vote, provided they
appeared in court to assert their rights.

Mr. Chairman, incidents like these should not be happening today.
And they will not happen tomorrow, if Congress acts to help relieve
the burden by passing the legislation we need.

S. 472, the bill I favor, contains four chief features :

First, the bill is based on the principle of a voluntary, not manda-
tory, program of Federal financial assistance to State and local juris-



27

dictions in the area of voter registration. No State or local government
will be compelled to take any action under the bill, but those who
wish to take advantage of its financial assistance provisions will be
able to do so.

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

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

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

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

Grants to pay the full cost of registration-by-mail programs.

Grants and technical assistance for the prevention and control of
fraud as well as for research and development and for education and
training programs in the area of voter registration.

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

Fourth, the bill contains a 3-year, $135 million authorization for
the program, providing $45 million each year for the next 3 fiscal
years. That's a rnodest authorization, yet I believe it will do an ef-
fective job. At this funding level, each State and local government will
receive an average of approximately 30 cents a year for each eligible
voter. Over the 3-year period of the bill, therefore, a jurisdiction can
receive up to 90 cents per voter. These amounts are commensurate with
the cost of registering voters in most jurisdictions, and the cost to the
Federal Treasury will be extremely low. In fact, unlike almost every
other Federal social program, we can have reform in voter registra-
tion at bargain prices. Dollar for dollar, I can think of no better
place to spend our scarce Federal revenues than in the area of voter
registration.

The heart of S. 472 is the principle that many State and local gov-
ernments will take the lead in enacting reforms, if only Federal as-
sistance is available. Often, in the past, State and local registration
officers have operated on budgets too tight to allow even the most
obvious innovations and improvements. Now, we have the chance to
change all that. Because the need is so obvious, I am confident that
change will come as rapidly as the financial need is met.

Equally important, S. 472 will preserve the diversity of State and
local approaches to voter registration, by encouraging each jurisdic-
tion to develop programs to meet its own particular needs. Although
the major focus of the bill is on improvements in registration, incen-
tives can be provided to reward States that are already doing well. .



28

In some cases, States or counties may adopt the door-to-door can-
vass methods used so well in Canada, Britain and other nations. S.
472 will pay for that.

Other States may wish to adopt post card registration. S. 472 will
pay for that.

Others may wish to computerize their registration on a statewide
basis, and end the dismal era of green eyeshades-quill pen techniques
too often used today to process registration data — South Carolina,
Delaware, and Alaska have already gone to computer system and 10
additional States are now preparing to take that step. S. 472 will
pay for that.

Still other States may wish to establish comprehensive education
and training programs for officials involved in registration and vot-
ing pt-ocedures. S. 472 will pay for that.

And S. 472 will even pay for States to dismantle their registration
programs altogether — which is perhaps the boldest approach of all
to solve the registration crisis. North Dakota is well known today as a
State that has no mandatory requirement of voter registration, but
what is not so well known is that at least nine other States leave regis-
ration to local option in the smaller counties and communities. Of
the 88 counties in Ohio, for example, 27 or nearly one-third, have no
requirement of voter registration. All you have to do to vote is to go
to the polls on election day. Of the li4 counties in Missouri, 66, or
more than half, require no registration at all, and eight other counties
use only partial registration — that is, only in cities with populations of
50,000 or more witTiin the county. And so it goes in at least seven other
States. Some experts have suggested that registration could be totally
abolished in up to one-third of the election districts in the country as
a whole, with no harm at all to legitimate election dav concerns.

One more point should be made. It is becoming fashionable in some
quarters now to play down the impact of obstacles to registration as
a factor in our declining voter turnout. Voter apathy is the problem,
they say, not voter registration. After the enormous difficulties in
registration I have iust described, it is difficult to deny that registra-
tion is a problem. ^Yhy can't we simplv agree that apathy is a factor,
too, without letting it become a roadblock to reform in other areas.
To say that a man may choose not to accept a drink of water if the
glass is put beside him, does not mean he ought to have to cross a desert
when he decides he wants the water. And that's how our registration
laws appear to many citizens — a Sahara they have to cross to earn
the right to vote. That's not a situation we can be proud of, not a situ-
ation we can tolerate, in the America of 1973.

Left to individual State action, however, the comprehensive re-
forms we need may never happen. Registration is a national problem,
and it demands a national solution. Without legislation at the Federal
level, the inertia of nearly a century of past and present practice will
continue, and we shall lose this timely and fertile opportunity to
repair a serious breakdown in our democracy and make government
more responsive to the people.

Now, with the passions of an election year behind us. Congress has
the opportunity to breathe new life into the political process in Amer-



29

ica. Thanks to your leadership, Mr. Chairman, the Senate has already
compiled an outstanding record of bipartisan support for such reform.
I am confident that the 93d Congress will enact the measures we need,
and end the present shame of America's lost voters.
(The aforementioned table follows :)



VOTER TURNOUT BY STATE IN THE 1972 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION



State



Eligible
voters 1



Alabama _ 2,274,000

Alaska _ 200,000

Arizona 1,239,000

Arkansas 1,310,000

California. 13,945,000

Colorado _.. 1,558,000

Connecticut 2,106,000

Delaware _._ 371,000

District of Columbia... 518,000

Florida 5,105,000

Georgia 3,104,000

Hawaii 531,000

Idaho.. 479,000

Illinois.. _. 7,542,000

Indiana 3,509,000

Iowa 1,909,000

Kansas _ 1,541,000

Kentucky.. 2,206,000

Louisiana _. __ 2,339,000

Maine.. - 66,000

Maryland _ 2, 688, 000

Massachusetts 3,955,000

Michigan 5,874,000

Minnesota 2,560,000

Mississippi. 1,403,000

Missouri _. 3,266,000

Montana 460,000

Nebraska 1,022,000

Nevada _ 348,000

New Hampshire.. 521,000

New Jersey _ 5,025,000

New Mexico..- 636,000

New York 12,773,000

North Carolina... 3,463,000

North Dakota 402,000

Ohio 7,185,000

Oklahoma 1,812,000

Oregon 1,500,000

Pennsylvania ... ... . 8,161,000

Rhode Island _ . 673,000

South Carolina 1,706,000

South Dakota _ 434,000

Tennessee 2,713,000

Texas 7,681,000

Utah 689,000

Vermont . 309,000

Virginia.. 3,197,000

Washington.. 2,371,000

West Virginia 1,182,000

Wisconsin _ 2,955,000

Wyoming 225,000

Total 139,642,000



Actual
voters 2



1,006,000

95, 000

623, 000

621,000

7,765,000

949, 000

1,384,000

236, 000

164,000

2,576,000

1,172,000

270, 000

310, 000

4,704,000

2,128,000

1,225,000

916,000

1,067,000

1,051,000

417,000

1,354,000

2,458,000

3,487,000

1,738,000

646, 000

1,856,000

318,000

576, 000

182,000

334, 000

2, 992, 000

386, 000

7,157,000

1,506,000

281,000

4, 087, 000

1,030,000

922, 000

4, 589, 000

416,000

672, 000

307, 000

1,201,000

3,461,000

478, 000

187,000

1,447,000

1,470,000

762, 000

1,851,000

146, 000



Turnout of

eligible

voters

(percent)



Registered
voters '



Turnout of

registered

voters

(percent)



77, 684, 000



44.2 1,764,000 57.0
47.5

50. 3 862, 000 72. 3

47.4 1,010,000 61.5
55.7 10,466,000 74.2
60.9 1,220,000 77.8
65.7 1,648,000 84.0

63. 6 293, 000 80. 5

31.7 305,000 53.8

50.5 3,487,000 73.9

37. 8 2, 403, 000 48. 8

50.8 338,000 79.9

64.7 397,000 78.1
62.4 6,215,000 75.7

60.6 -.

64.2

59 4

48'. 4 '""'i,"455,'6o6 73.'3

44. 9 1, 785, 000 58. 9

62.6 616,000 67.7
50. 4 1, 816, 000 74. 6
62. 1 2, 775, 000 88. 5
59.4 4,763,000 73.2
67.9

46.0

56.8

69. 1 387, 000 82. 2

56.4 712,000 80.9
52.3

6411 424,"6o6 """78.'8

59. 5 3, 673, 000 81. 5

60.7

56. 9, 207, 000 77. 7
43.5 2,358,000 63.9

69.9 _

56.9

56.8 1,247,000 82.6
61.5 1,198,000 77.0

56. 2 5, 872, 000 78. 2

61.8 532,000 78.2
39.4 1,029,000 65.3
70. 7 392, 000 78. 3

44.3 1,990,000 60.4

45.1

69.4 621,000 77.0

60. 5 273, 000 68. 5
45. 3 2, 107, 000 68. 7
62.0 1,975,000 74.4
64.5

62.6

64.9

55.6



1 Bureau of the Census, current population reports, "Projections of the Population of Voting Age for States: November
1972," series P-25 No. 479 (March 1972), table 2.

3 Certified vote totals in the 1972 election, as published in the New York Times, Dec. 20, 1972, p. 28; Dec. 24, 1972, p. 26
Figures rounded to the nearest thousand.

' Official reports of the State secretaries of State, giving registration figures available for the most recent date before
election day. Data furnished to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Library of Congress. Figures
rounded to the nearest thousand. In some cases, the number of registered voters will increase as the figures are updated
to election day, and the turnout of registered voters will show a corresponding decrease.



91-577 O — 73-



30



Voter turnout in U.S. presidential elections, 1824-1972

[In percent]



Election :
1824
1828
1832
1836
1840
1844
1848
1852
1856
1860
1864
1868
1872
1876
1880
1884
1888
1892
1896



Turnout

.__ 26.9
.__ 57. 6
.__ 55.4
— 57.8

80.2

.__ 78. 9
.__ 72. 7
.__ 69. 6

78.9

.__ 81. 2

73. 8

.__ 78. 1
-__ 71. 3
.__ 81. 8
.__ 79.4
.__ 77.5

79. 3

.__ 74. 7
.__ 79.3



Election :
1900 .
1904 .
1908 .
1912 .
1916 .
1920 .
1924 .
1928 .
1932 .
1936 .
1940 ,
1944 .
1948 .
1952 ,
1956 .
1960
1964 .
1968
1972



Turnout

— 73. 2
.__ 65. 2
.__ 65. 4
.— 58.8
.__ 61. 6
.__ 49. 2
.__ 48.9
.__ 56.9
.__ 56.9
.__ 61.0
.__ 62. 5
.__ 55.9
.__ 53.0
.__ 63.3
.__ 60.6
.-_ 64.0
.__ 61. 8
.__ 60. 6
.__ 55.6



VOTER TURNOUT IN RECENT GENERAL ELECTIONS IN FOREIGN NATIONS



Nation



Election



Turnout
(percent) Comment



Australia

Canada

France

West Germany

Italy

Netherlands...
New Zealand..
Great Britain..
Ireland



Dec. 2, 1972


97


Compulsory registration and
voting.


Oct. 30, 1972


74




June 2, 1969


77




Nov. 19,1972


91




May 7-8, 1972


93


Compulsory voting.


Nov. 29, 1972


83


)o.


Nov. 25, 1972


90


Compulsory registration.


June 18, 1970


71




Junel8,l%9


75





The Chairman. Thank you very much, Ted, for your testimony here.
I think it is doubly appropriate in the light of the audience that is
assembled here this morning, a high proportion of which is made up
of Hearst scholars and with this sort of expertise already present we
start out with a hard core of a highly motivated group to carry the
torch for broadening the base. I only hope that our Hearst scholars
this year will be able to motivate a larger percentage of the 18-year-
olds into actually voting than was the case this year. We had high
hopes for a heavy participation of new voters and that participation
was less than encouraging but it takes a little time I guess when these
things begin for the first time.

I want to particularly call attention to the fact that there are
present Hearst students from the high altitudes and low altitudes of
the beautiful State of Wyoming; that there are also Hearst scholars
from America's icebox, Alaska, with all its beauty and its wonderful
strawberries in spite of the inclement weather in some parts of the
land; and I am sure they are here from Massachusetts.

As a former chairman of the Hearst program here in the Senate,
I can say we are mighty proud of the Hearst scholars that grace our
halls every year, as they examine the mechanism of democracy at
first hand. It is a living laboratory.



31

Ted Stevens of Alaska has already been introduced. Why not
lead off.

Senator Ste\t:ns. I have no questions. I am pleased to be associated
with the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts on the bill that
we have cosponsored, and I endorse entirely everything he said. I only
wish we could go further. I do not see any reason why juries should
be selected from voter lists, because there are people I think who do
not register or do not vote because they really do not want to be
involved in the jury system. We ought to find some way to separate
jury duty from the voting process. Nonethelss I am delighted to join
with Senator Kennedy and I applaud him for his consistent support
of voter reform.

The Chairman. I might add to your commentary, Senator Ken-
nedy, that further indication of new inroads being made into problems
that our mutual efforts are addressed to is illustrated in the State of
Texas from which we will have some expert testimony a little later
on where you can even cut out coupons from the Dallas Morning News
and other liberal Texas papers and register by coupon. It points the
finger at how ridiculous we have become with the rigidity of some of
our limitations on registering people to vote.

Our crusade still has to be against how a man votes. How you
suspect he is likely to vote ought to be the most irrelevant factor in
this question and yet how many times that pops up amongst some of
our colleagues who discover that a large number of these people
will be poor, a large number of them will be less well educated and
a large number will be minorities of one sort or another, however you '
want to slice it.

But unfortunately some of those with the very finest education,
with the most amount of economic sustenance also vote in a terrible
way so we cannot inject the criteria of how one votes must determine
who is eligible to vote.

I think that is a key to this whole approach.

One of the differences, Ted, in the bills that we have here is the
dimension of the voluntary aspect of the program. Yours, as I gather,
relies very heavily on the voluntary approach. The bill that I have
in at the moment simply to get things started so we can continue to
explore the best of ideas is mandatory in Federal elections.

Would you care to address yourself to that ?

Senator Kennedy. I support your bill, Mr. Chairman, and as you
well know, it is mandatory in Federal elections and also provides
financial incentives to States and local communities to use the post
card system for State or local elections as well.

I support your bill, and I think in many respects it would be the
most efficient way of achieving the desired goal.

You were the floor manager of the bill on the Senate floor last
3'ear, and you came within a handful votes of success. It was through
3'our persuasive argumentation that the cause was pressed as far for-
ward as it was at that time, and I commend you for that.

The bill I have introduced takes a somewhat different approach,
providing financial incentives to States and local governments to en-
courage, but not compel, them to upgrade their registration programs.
We put the carrot in there to encourage them to move ahead, and



32

we have various general and specific incentives. If, for example,
Massachusetts were to take advantage of the general incentive, it
would be eligible for 10 cents per voter, or $400,000, based on 4 mil-
lion voters.

The Chairman. You do not think that would be subtracted in view
of the Massachusetts voting record this last election? [Laughter.]

Senator Kennedy. I hope not [laughter]. On top of that $300,000
the bill would also pay half of any improvements, such as a compu-
terized registration program. The State could get up to 10 cents a
voter more here, or another $400,000.

Now the advantage of your program, Mr. Chairman, is that it
reaches right into the home and insures that people can be registered
easily. I do not underestimate the importance of computerization and
its advantages in terms of improving registration procedures, but I
can see that your program really reaches out and insures a very
significant impact on registration.

The kind of approach I have suggested gives States and local
governments the kind of flexibility and authority and responsibility
which they desire in reaching the goal of registration more appealing.
The bill provides flexibility to local communities by offering funds
for a variety of improvements.

So although I support and have always been a strong supporter
of your approach, Mr. Chairman, I also think that the kind of ap-
proach that Senator Stevens and I have taken offers a realistic addi-
tional hope to achieve our desired goal.

The Chairman. I should inject there that during the last year's
legislative battles, your drive was really the eloquent and sustaining
factor in the course of the colloquies on the floor of the Senate and
that we all understand there is no pride in authorship here. We are
trying to achieve a goal.

We want to try to do that in the most expeditious and equitable
way that we can and that is why we are genuinely searching for
wiser answers.

All answers available here have an element of wisdom in them
but we want to do what we think in balance will be the most solid
approach, as we seek to resolve some of the aspects of this question.
Some of it has been resolved from last year. We had residence factors
in this. Since then the Supreme Court of course has ruled that 30
days for all practical purposes should be the residence limitation
in Federal elections.

Now as I understand the decision, that is not an absolute judgment;
there are areas where 30 days does pose a problem. I think Senator
Stevens' area is a good case in point but it was a guideline as far as
the Senate and House. Already the Voting Rights Act of 1070 had
prescribed 30 days as the only residence limitation for a person voting
for President either to vote in the State where he had now resided as
a new citizen for 30 days, regardless of that State's limitations or to
vote in the State he had just left, regardless of the absentee voter
restrictions from that State. This was to protect against the mobility
of voters in which circumstances of being on the road or some place
else trap several millions of voters every year.

So we have been able to approach this now at a slightly higher level
in addressing ourselves to problems than was the case just a year ago.



33

Senator STE^'ENS. I want to point out to my good friend from
Massachusetts that one of the problems we get into with your bill as
opposed to the bill that the Senator from Massachusetts has introduced
was, I think, pinpointed by the secretary of state from Oregon. Oregon
has the most enlightenecl voter education program in the country.
Oregon provides every voter with a pamphlet that contains a picture
and a statement of every candidate in his district when he will have
an opportunity to vote for.

Because of the preparation involved, they must have a sufficient time
to get that pamphlet ready and to the voters. Additional delay is
necessitated because of the mails, a problem which this committee is
going to look into this year. Unless the States have the flexibility to
use the techniques they think are best to get the registration and get
their mailing lists, whether the registration technique be door-to-door
canvassing, or direct mail, or the grocer}^ store registrars, the high
school registrars, the States cannot get that voter education material
out.

I think we have to give the States the flexibility to use the techniques
they feel are best and not put them in a rigid strait jacket by saying
that in order to get Federal assistance, you must have a certain type
of system.

The Chairman. Again there is no ironclad limitation that we start
out with on that. If the flexibility there becomes rather obvious and a
wise part, without destroying the fundamentals, we would all agree
that should be another one of its features. We hope to get the best
of all bills on this.

That is all the questions I have right now.

Senator Kennedy. There are two final comments I would like.
The first is that the bill I have introduced embraces the concept and
the policy of revenue sharing, which is appealing to the States. Sec-
ond, as both you, Mr. Chairman, and Senator Stevens know, a major
question concerns the cost of this legislation. I think all of us agree
that this kind of investment secures a basic and fundamental right
and is well worth every dollar we spend on it. All of us support various
Federal spending programs in other areas, and all of us who have
voted for them have wondered at times how effective these programs
really are. Perhaps we do not really follow them with sufficient over-
sight in Congress. But we do know the importance of the right to
vote. I doubt that any other program could give us as good a return
on eveiy dollar we spend.

It is not a lot of money we are talking about as Federal spending
programs go — $45 million a year — and I am confident the funds can be
spent wisely and more effectively, with immense returns for our
democracy.

The Chairman. It is once again a matter of priorities of sorts, and
at this moment we are holding up our system and our procedure is
kind of a goldfish bowl example to the rest of the world and we are
saying to the rest of the world, "Look. "V^^ly do you not look toward
doing it like we do it?"' and then we show up with half of the people
voting.

It kind of rings a hollow note to others who are studying us with
the greatest of care.



34

It is time that we, I think, put our efforts and some of our financial
commitment where our chest beating is these days, where our rhetoric



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 3 of 28)