Requisites of Democracy for the electorate. The strength and stability of modern states are usually attributed to the fact that they are democratic. It is argued that if the people make the laws that they obey, and select the persons to administer such laws, there is the largest likelihood that general welfare will be secured and the least danger of dissatisfaction and revolution. A more careful analysis of the term “democracy” and of the methods by Which a democratic government is organized in desirable.
Democracy is based upon the theory of equality and, from the political point of view, includes these two concepts:
1. Civil liberty, or the right of each person to equal freedom, within a certain sphere, from interference on the part of other persons or of the government.
2. Political liberty, or the right to share in exercising the authority of the state.
Accordingly, a state is democratic when, from the standpoint of the former, all its citizens are guaranteed an equal amount of civil liberty, or, as usually stated, are equal before the law and, from the standpoint of the latter, when a large proportion of its citizens take some part in the sovereign power of legally expressing the state’s will. A state in which all are equally exempt from interference and all share equally in exercising such authority as exists would be a perfect democracy, Such a condition is in practice, impossible. The actual political authority exercised by the mass of citizens is determined by the following.
a. The extent of the electorate, that is, the proportion of the entire citizen body that are active citizens or the number that may, at any time or in any way, legally exercise governing powers.
b. The powers of the electorate. These powers may be exercised directly by the electorate as an organ of government, or indirectly by the control which the electorate legally exerts over the ordinary organs of government. Indirectly it may exert a certain control by the pressure of public opinion. If the electorate exercises only small powers and at irregular or infrequent intervals, real authority is in the hands of the ordinary government, and the extent of the electorate is only an apparent test of democracy. Only when the electorate directly exercises large powers, or where its control over the entire government is extensive and constant, is the electorate an important governmental factor.
Hence in a pure democracy the electorate would coincide with the entire citizen body and would directly exercise all governmental authority. But no state finds it expedient to widen its electorate beyond a fractional part of its entire population and in no modern state could even this narrowed electorate exercise all governing powers.
The degree of democracy will depend, then, upon the limitations placed by a state upon its electorate, Upon the direct part played by the electorate in government, and upon the relation existing between the electorate and the ordinary organs of government. Moreover, since unanimous consent among a large number of persons is unlikely, and some form of majority must prevail, the question of dealing with the minority remains and states find it expedient to devise means of protecting this body and of giving it a legal method of expressing its will.
Accordingly, the limitations placed by states upon the size of their electorates, the authority exercised by the electorate indirectly by means of their control over the ordinary organs of government, the means by which the electorate exercises political authority directly without the intermediate use of other governmental organs, and the methods of representing and protecting the minority will form the subdivisions of this article.
It should be noted that political democracy does not necessarily imply economic or social democracy. Even where political rights and powers are widespread and fairly equally distributed, there may exist wide discrepancies in the distribution of wealth, preventing economic equality, and clearly marked class distinctions, or castes, preventing social equality.
Where such conditions exist political democracy finds difficulties in successful operation since superiority or power of any kind tends to be translated into political control. Hence a democratic state finds it desirable to some extent to make efforts toward securing a fair degree of economic and social equality.
Theories of the Nature of the Suffrage:
The functions of the electorate are exercised by the process of voting. Concerning this political right various theories have been held.
1. The tribal theory:
This theory appeared in the early tribal organization of the Greek, Roman, and Germanic peoples and reached its highest development in the Greek city state. It regarded suffrage as a necessary attribute of membership in the state. State and individual were identified. Neither had any interests that conflicted with the other, and voting on questions of public policy was a part of the life of the community in which every citizen shared.
Citizenship might be narrow and exclusive, but within the citizen class each person was expected to share in the work of government. The suffrage was not viewed as a right or a privilege, but as a necessary and natural part of the life of every citizen. Membership in the state carried with it the obligation to take active part in its life. The modern practice of requiring citizenship as a qualification for voting represents a survival of this theory.
2. The feudal theory:
In the latter part of the Middle Ages, when the system of representation was being developed, the right to vote was considered as a vested privilege, attached to those occupying a particular status in society, and usually associated with the ownership of land. Modern property qualifications for voting are a survival of this theory, as are the systems of plural voting, such as that which existed until recently in Great Britain, where persons who owned estates in various parts of the country had the right to vote in each of these places.
3. The natural rights theory:
The theory of an original state of nature, in which all men were free and equal and possessed natural rights, and of the establishment of the state and of government by a voluntary contact to the doctrine of popular sovereignty. All political power came from the people. They alone could create law and the government was their agent, receiving its delegated powers from the people who created it.
In accordance with these principles the right to take part in government was a natural right, by means of which the general will of the people could be discovered and the government kept responsible to the consent of the governed. According to this theory, which reached its highest development in connection with the revolutions in England in the seventeenth century and the American and French revolutions in the eighteenth century, the right to vote was viewed as an abstract right which people possessed under the law of nature.
It was also appealed to in the efforts to extend the suffrage to women and to other disfranchised classes, and to widen the direct governing powers of the electorate by such devices as the initiative and referendum. The fallacy in this theory results from confusing the ethical and the legal concept of law and rights. Only those possess the right to vote, in the legal sense, upon whom the state has conferred such right by law. The state may legally and, from the point of view of political expediency, quite properly restrict the suffrage by imposing such qualifications as it considers necessary.
4. The legal theory:
According to the legal theory, which is held by the majority of political scientists, the electorate is viewed as one of the organs of government, whose composition and powers are determined by the laws of the state. Voting thereby becomes a function of government, the exercise of a public trust. The question of who may vote and of what the voters may do is decided by each state from the point of view of political efficiency. Suffrage, therefore is not a natural right, but a political right, conferred by law.
This theory serves as the justification for various reform movements, such as proportional representation, the short ballot, corrupt practices acts, and educational qualifications for voting, the purpose of which is to secure a competent and effective electorate as a part of the governmental organization.
5. The ethical theory:
The exponents of the ethical theory argue the desirability of the right to vote, not as a natural right but as a means for the most complete development of human personality and worth. By taking active part in government the citizen becomes more interested in public questions and more intelligent concerning public policy than he otherwise would be. His capacity for self government is thereby increased, and his dignity and self respect are enhanced by the opportunity for self expression in political affairs.
This theory has been used to justify the extension of the suffrage, as a means of political education, to classes not fully competent to exercise it wisely. The granting of suffrage to former slaves at the close of the American Civil War, and the recent establishment of wide Dowers of self government in the Philippine Islands and in India, are examples of this policy.
It may be noted that the first, third, and fifth of these theories tend to widen the suffrage and equalize political rights. The second and fourth theories restrict the suffrage on the basis of particular privilege or ability. If the suffrage is viewed as a right or a privilege, the citizen is theoretically free to exercise it or not as he sees fit. If it is viewed as a legal obligation or duty, it may be argued that voting should be compulsory, in order that the real will of the electorate may be accurately represented.
In practice, however, only a few states impose penalties for failure to vote. It is usually believed that better results are secured if the citizen is under moral obligation only to perform this political duty and that compulsory voting tends to lower the character of the privilege, to create a feeling of resentment against the government, and to increase the danger of political corruption.
Extent of the Electorate.
The widening of the electorate is one of the most characteristic features of recent political development. States have always made a distinction between citizens and none citizens, based mainly in ancient times on common blood and worship, in the Middle Ages on personal allegiance to the ruler, and more recently on territorial sovereignty. Within this class of citizens, all of whom owe allegiance to the state and may claim its protection, a further division has been made into those who have not, and those who have, the right to share in expressing the state’s will.
This latter class has usually been limited to a comparatively small part of the total citizen body. In the city states of Greece and in the Roman Republic a fair proportion of the population had, under certain restrictions, a share in governmental authority.
However, Rome’s expansion and the establishment of the Empire destroyed this early democratic progress. The modern electorate developed from the local moots and assemblies of the Teutonic peoples and from the system of representation which created parliaments in several of the new national states that appeared toward the end of the medieval period.
The commercial centers of Italy and Germany also revived some of the methods of the early city states in using the elective method for selecting officials of government. In England a national electorate came into existence in the thirteenth century in connection with the selection of delegates to advise the king and his council on matters of taxation.
The right to vote was limited by property qualifications in the rural districts and was restricted to members of the monopolistic corporations in the boroughs. The religious disputes following the Reformation added religious qualifications for voting in many states. As late as the beginning of the nineteenth century only 3 percent of the population of England possessed the right to vote.
The doctrines of natural rights, equality of men, and popular sovereignty, which were prevalent in the philosophic theories of the eighteenth century, manifested themselves in a demand for universal manhood suffrage and in the French Revolution these doctrines were put into practice. In the United States, where English political methods had been established without the background of feudal institutions, a comparatively extensive suffrage was further widened, as a result of these theories, by abolishing religious and property qualifications.
Even in England the injustice resulting from the restricted and unevenly distributed franchise led to the Reform Acts of the nineteenth century, by which the suffrage was extended to the farm laborers and the city workers. Other states, affected by the general democratic tendency of the last century, have established a more or less extended electorate and agitation for wider and more equal suffrage still exists. At present, in the more liberal states, almost half the entire population are voters. Remaining limitations some being survivals of earlier restrictions, others being the result of political expediency, may be summarized as follows:
All states agree that a certain maturity is a requisite to the political intelligence and judgment needed in voting Hence a minimum age limit to the exercise of the suffrage is universal the usual requirement being twenty to twenty five years of age. This qualification alone removes from the electorate almost half the entire population.
Political authority in its origin was closely connected with military power, and in many early political societies the freemen in arms formed the electorate. This association of political power with military service excluded women from active Participation. When modem states arose, women were legally and economically dependent and while in some states, through descent, women might occupy the throne, the idea that women as a class should share with men in government did not exist.
In fact, except for the philosophical theory of “universal suffrage.” held by a small minority of extreme radicals at the time of the French Revolution, it was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that woman’s suffrage was seriously urged. Even today, in many countries it has made little progress. Before the First World War, women had secured the right to vote in some of the American states, in Australia, and in Finland, and had the right to vote in local elections in Great Britain, New Zealand, and Denmark. Organized movements for the enfranchisement of women were actively at work in many countries. The important part played by women during the war gave an impetus to their demand for political rights and led to a general extension of woman’s suffrage.
By constitutional amendment women were given equal political rights with men in the United States. In England women were given the right to vote in parliamentary elections. After the First World War the new constitutions of Russia, Germany, Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, the Irish Free State, and, more recently, Italy and France conferred upon women full or partial rights of suffrage. In many at these countries the enfranchisement of women was followed by their election to public office.
The opponents of woman’s suffrage argued that women were physically unable to perform all the duties and obligations of citizenship, especially military service, and that hence they had no right to demand its privileges. It was held that active participation in public affairs would unsex women and destroy their valuable qualities and services as mothers and home makers. If a wife voted differently from her husband, it would tend to create dissension in the family, if she voted according to her husband’s advice, her vote was merely a duplication of his. The authority of Scripture was used to show that women were intended by God for a position of obedience, rather than of authority.
In Catholic states woman’s suffrage was opposed because of the fear that the opinions of women would be controlled by the priests. Many argued that women would be guided by sentiment and emotion rather than by reason, and that they would take little interest in public affairs after the first novelty wore off. It was believed that women’s best influence could be exerted indirectly and none politically, and that public careers for women would destroy different and chivalry toward the sex, would make them different creatures, and would be bad for the state.
The arguments in favor of equal rights for women took various forms. It was pointed out that the proper criterion for determining the right to vote was moral and intellectual, not physical, and that women should logically be given equal civil and political rights with men. With the entrance of women into industry it was argued that they needed the right to vote to protect themselves against class legislation and to secure proper regulations concerning hours, wages, and conditions of employment.
Some believed that the active participation of women in political affairs would have a purifying and elevating influence and insure better government. The doctrine of “no taxation without representation” was also used by many women who were owners of property. Universal education and the growing economic independence of women did much to break down opposition to the movement for woman’s suffrage.
At the present time, when movement of population from one country to another is common, citizenship becomes an important and complicated problem. Most states require either original or naturalized citizenship as a qualifier tion for suffrage. Citizenship at birth is decided by one of two principles or by a combination of both. In accordance with the principle of jus sanguinis, the nationality of a child follows that of his parents or one of them, regardless of the place of birth. In accordance with principle of jus soli, nationality is determined by the place of birth, regardless of the citizenship of the parents. The former principle is the older and was incorporated into Roman law. The latter principle appeared in connection with the feudal theory of territorial sovereignty.
Conflicts resulting from these two theories of citizenship are usually decided by treaty agreements among states, or by the practice of states in declining to assert their claims as long as the citizen whose status is in dispute remains outside their territory, or by allowing persons of double nationality to choose the one they prefer. The principle of has an advantage in the fact that citizenship is easily proved, but in other respects it is illogical and unsatisfactory. The principle of jus sanguinis lacks the advantage of easy proof, but is in general more natural and reasonable and has been more widely adopted.
Modern states differ widely in their attitude toward admitting aliens to citizenship by formal grant or naturalization. Citizenship conferred by this process is a gratuitous concession on the part of the state, and may be granted on prescribed conditions or may be withheld for any reason which the state considers expedient. In some cases the process is made easy, and resident aliens are encouraged to become citizens in others the process is so difficult as to discourage the admission of new citizens. In the United States only white persons and persons of African descent are eligible to naturalization. Naturalize citizenship does not necessarily carry with it the right to vote. Citizenship and suffrage are by no means coextensive. Many citizens are excluded from the suffrage in all states and states may, if they choose, confer the right to vote upon resident aliens.
Closely connected with citizenship is the requirement that in order to vote a person must establish a legal residence in a particular place for a certain period of time. In the United States, where population is especially mobile, 3 period of residence ranging from thirty days in some election districts to two years in some commonwealths is demanded and a person may vote only in the district containing his residence. In Great Britain a person possessing certain property qualifications may vote in one district in addition to that which he resides. Some form of registration to prevent fraud in voting is in practice in all states.
Since modern suffrage originated during the feudal period, its exercise was for a long time limited to property, holders. An early English statute required a freehold worth forty shillings a year as a requisite for voting, and for centuries the possession of real estate or the payment of taxes was necessary. According to the current theory, voting was the accompanying right of property, not of citizenship, since property owners alone had a permanent share and interest in the community.
Even in modern times it has been urged that the assembly which imposes taxes should be elected by those who pay something toward the taxes imposed. While this theory has largely disappeared, certain of its elements survive. A small poll tax remains as a qualification for voting in many states, and in some the possession of property gives to its owners additional votes or special privileges in government. While paupers, dependent on the state, are usually excluded from the electorate, property qualifications in general are being abandoned. According to the theory in present day Russia, possession of property becomes a distinct disqualification for participation in government.
6. Mental and moral qualifications:
Religious qualifications for voting have practically disappeared, although the constitutions of several commonwealths in the United States provide that no person shall vote who does not believe in a God. Criminals in confinement and idiots and lunatics are usually excluded and sometimes those who have been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery in elections, are temporarily or permanently disqualified. Recently educational tests, involving ability to read and write, have been adopted in a number of states. This requisite is based on the sound principle of political expediency that voting should be intelligent.
The difficulty lies in the lack of a practical method of determining intelligence on public questions. Ability to read and write does not necessarily imply intelligent knowledge of public questions or high standards of honesty and integrity. Persons of high attainments in certain fields of knowledge may be absolutely ignorant and indifferent concerning political matters.
Sometimes illiterate persons may possess sound sense and judgment on governmental questions. Where propaganda is used through the press deliberately to misinform the voters, ability to read may even be an obstacle to the forming of sound opinions. In some cases, as in the Southern states or the United States and in British South Africa, educational tests are administered mainly for the purpose of disfranchising the black population.
In addition, there are exceptional qualifications in certain states. The residents of the District of Columbia are entirely disfranchised. In Russia those who employ others for the sake of profit or who live on income not derived from their own labor, monks and priests of all religious denominations, and members of the former ruling dynasty and of the former secret police were excluded from voting. Soldiers and sailors on actual military duty are disfranchised in some states.
Qualifications for the suffrage are sometimes applied to the entire state by the constitution, as in the German Republic, or by a single law, as in France. In England the suffrage has been established by a series of laws each of which extended the suffrage and partially repealed previous statutes of these the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867 and the Representation of the People Acts of 1884 and 1918 were the most important.
In the United States, except for the Fifteenth Amendment, providing that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied on account of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” and the Nineteenth Amendment, extending full and equal suffrage rights to women qualifications of suffrage are left to the separate commonwealths, the Constitution providing that for federal suffrage the voters “in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.” In practice the full strength of the electorate is never actually exercised in any country, sickness, absence from home, and deliberate or thoughtless failure to vote reducing the total. In elections in which there is little general interest the vote cast is often but a small part of the total number of eligible voters.
Control of Electorate over Government:
Modem states differ in the degree of control which the electorate exercises over the ordinary officials of government. If the constitution may be modified only after reference to popular vote, the electors determine the form of government, and by the insertion of a Bill of Rights in the constitution may exercise a negative control by excluding the ordinary government from a certain field of powers. The real authority of the electorate will be determined largely by the method in which the ordinary officials of government are chosen and by the control which the electorate exercises over them, either in influencing or in checking their actions.
As soon as the area and population of a state exceed a comparatively small limit, it becomes increasingly difficult for the electorate to exercise direct political power. Popular assemblies either are attended by only a minority of those qualified or become too unwieldy for actual usefulness, incapable of serious deliberation or of dealing with complicated problems. Modern democracies have met this difficulty by selecting smaller groups, representative of the whole, to create law and by choosing officials to administer it. Representation and election are thus two means by which the electorate keeps in touch with the other organs of government. These bonds are further strengthened by the principle of local self government, according to which certain affairs are left in the hands of the smaller units, so that in those areas a more intimate connection between electorate and government obtains than would be possible in the state as a whole.
The control of the electorate over lawmaking representatives and public officials is narrowed in many states by the fact that heredity, appointment, and indirect election remove part of the government from its influence. Besides, in many lawmaking bodies the representatives, once chosen, are permitted to exercise their own judgment on questions at issue and are under no legal compulsion to express the wishes of their constituents of course, in all elective offices the length of term affects the power of the electorate. Frequent elections allow opportunity to indicate approval or disapproval of certain lines of policy and desire for reelection leads many representatives to follow the wishes of those on whom that reelection depends. In some cases the electorate may remove as well as select officials, by means of the recall, in which a certain number of voters, by petition, may demand a popular vote as to whether or not a certain elected official shall remain in office
The system of indirect election, by which the electorate chooses a smaller body, which in turn selects officials of government, was popular in the early period of modern democracy. It was upheld on the ground that the ultimate choice would rest in a body possessing a high average of ability and intelligence, and that the evils of party passion and of hasty popular emotion would be avoided.
Against this system may be urged the fact that voters lose interest if a middleman is interposed between them and the objects of their choice. Besides, the danger of political corruption may be increased if the electoral body is narrowed to a small group, more easily, reached by special interests. where the party system is well developed, indirect election is likely to degenerate into a cumbrous formality, since the electors will be pledged to vote for the party candidates. This has taken place in the method of choosing the president and vice president in the United States. The system of indirect election is not in harmony with the spirit of modern democracy and has been largely abandoned in the new governments of modern states.
The actual power of the electorate also depends to some extent on the method by which voting is exercised. It is generally believed that secret voting enables the voter to exercise his choice freely and independently, without the bringing of pressure to bear upon him by the government in power or by those who are in a position to intimidate him in any way. At the same time there are those who believe that voting, as a public responsibility, should be exercised publicly, and that secret voting develops a feeling of irresponsibility.
Easy facilities for voting also increase the actual power of the electorate. if elections are held on working days and the workers lose financially if they take the time to vote, the actual number of votes cast will be reduced and the influence of the working classes will be reduced. The practice of holding elections on Sunday became general throughout Europe. If the voting district is large, requiring many voters to travel long distances,many voters will find it difficult to exercise their suffrage. Provision has been made in some states for a system of absent voting. enabling those who me away from home on election day to forward their ballots by mull.
Under the conditions of modern life anything which increases the ease and convenience of voting increases the actual power of the electorate and prevents the disfranchisement of those whose business, health, or amusements would otherwise interfere.
In addition to the pressure of public opinion, which, by means of public meetings, petitions, the press, and the lobby, may be brought to bear on governmental officials, the electorate in modern states exerts a powerful influence by means of political parties. These voluntary associations of voters, aiming to control all the organs of government and establishing behind the government a machinery of nominations, conventions, and committees, determine the real policy of the state and give to the electorate a most effective way of making the government constantly and promptly responsive to its will.
On the other hand, if party machinery falls under the control of a few men, the electorate funds itself less powerful than ever, for the legal irresponsibility of party bosses makes them correspondingly difficult to attack or remove. As political parties become a legal part of the government and are made responsible to the wishes of the electorate, the authority of the latter over government will increase. The system of direct primaries was adopted in an effort to democratize political parties and extend the control of the voters over nominations as well as elections.
Direct Governing Powers of Electorate:
In addition to the influence indirectly exercised by the electorate in its control over the ordinary government, a direct share in governing is possessed by the electorate in some states. Not only does the electorate, by means of jury service, exercise direct judicial powers in many states, but it also takes part in the actual creation of law. Direct legislation by the assembled voters has survived in the swiss cantons, partly because of the small size of the units, partly because of the influence of Rousseau, who taught that direct democracy alone embodied true popular sovereignty.
The surviving town meetings in New England represent similar conditions and beliefs. In some states direct legislation has been recently adapted in an effort to extend democracy and to remedy some of the evils of representative bodies. Modem methods of communication have removed some of the hindrances to direct democracy in large areas and government by the mass of the people has been revived. This takes the following forms:
1. The initiative:
by which a given number of voters may, by petition, originate a law. In its direct form the proposed measure is submitted to the voters for their decision. In its indirect form the proposed measure is submitted to the legislature for its action, followed sometimes, in case of unfavorable action by the legislature, by submission of the question to the voters. The purpose of the initiative is to enable the electorate to secure the passage of laws desired by the majority, regardless of the wishes of the legislature.
2. The referendum:
by which a proposed law or constitutional amendment is submitted to popular vote and becomes law if ratified by the required majority. This may be compulsory for certain kinds of laws, or may be optional at the discretion of the legislature or if demanded by the petition of a certain number of voters.
3. The plebiscite:
by which a certain question is submitted to popular vote, the decision having sometimes no legal force, but being intended as an expression of public Opinion and as a guide to the policy of the government.
Although constitutions were first adopted by popular vote in the American states and in France, direct legislation by the electorate has been most highly developed in Switzerland. Several of the cantons forming the Swiss federation retain the ancient folkmoot, or Landesgemeinde, in which all the voters meet, pass laws, vote taxes, and elect officials. In the Swiss federal government the referendum is compulsory for all constitutional amendments, and optional, at the request of thirty thousand voters or the legislatures of eight cantons, for laws of general application. Fifty thousand voters may demand either a specific or a general revision of the federal constitution but there is no federal initiative for ordinary laws, unless they be put in the form of a constitutional amendment.
In all the cantons there are compulsory referendum for constitutional changes and in all except conservative Freiburg and those having the Landesgemeinde, the referendum for ordinary laws of a general nature is either compulsory or optional, the number of voters required to demand a referendum in the latter case depending upon the population of the canton. The initiative may be used in all but one of the cantons for constitutional revision, and in all but three to enact or revise ordinary legislation.
In actual practice the referendum is used much more than the initiative and a large proportion of proposed laws are rejected. In 1921 an amendment to the constitution was adopted which provides that international treaties, concluded for an indeterminate period or for more than fifteen years, shall be submitted to popular vote for adaption or rejection if the demand is made by thirty thousand voters or by eight cantons. This is a unique extension of the principle of direct legislation. Many of the new constitutions drawn up by European states after the First World War contained liberal provisions for the use of the initiative and referendum.
In the United States the electorate exercises direct legislation in the New England town meetings, where the voters in mass meeting elect town officials, vote taxes, and decide questions of local concern. Almost from the beginning of our history popular votes have been taken on the adoption and amendment of state constitutions. No national referendum exists in the United States, but in the states a number of questions are referred to popular vote. The legislatures in some cases may, and in others must, submit certain measures to popular referendum and in some states a certain percentage of the voters may demand a referendum on action taken by the legislatures. The initiative is used in some of the states, although petition to the legislatures is also used to request action on matters of interest to the voters. Recent city charters in the United States make wide provision for the use of initiative and referendum.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Legislation:
Among the advantages claimed for direct popular legislation are those shown on the following page:
1. The voters may force action on apathetic legislatures or may prevent legislation that does not reflect the wishes of the majority.
2. The voters are less likely than the legislature to be improperly influenced or to hesitate to oppose special interests.
3. Public sentiment is awakened and interest in government stimulated if voters have questions of importance to consider.
4. The local referendum may adapt general law to the needs of particular communities by means of local option.
Among the disadvantages are these:
1. Voters take little interest in such elections. Because of their frequency and because a large proportion of citizens are not interested in many questions submitted, the number of votes cast is usually small.
2. The referendum destroys the sense of responsibility of legislatures. Unwise laws are passed in the expectation that popular vote will destroy them, and the advantages of having law framed by a group of men specially selected and trained is largely lost.
3. It is difficult to frame complicated statutes concerning economic or social questions in such a way that a simple Yes or No vote will indicate the real will of the people.
4. Laws prepared by initiative petitions are often so carelessly drawn that extensive litigation results.
5. Constitutional amendment by initiative and referendum leads to the inclusion in the constitution of much material that should be left in statute form.
6. Voters cannot inform themselves on many of the questions submitted and therefore vote unintelligent.
Because of the wide powers, direct and indirect, exercised by the voters in modern states, the electorate has become practically a separate and important department of government. Standing behind the ordinary executive legislative and judicial organs. it exercises political powers, varying in different states but tending to become more extensive as the intelligence and political ability of the people increase.
It exercises executive powers in electing or recalling officers of administration it shares in legislative powers by electing representatives and by the initiative and referendum it takes part in judicial decisions by means of jury service. In some states it has a deciding voice in the formulation of the constitution, thus determining the fundamental organization of the state.
It is exercising a more direct and legal control over political parties, hitherto the chief bond between people and government. At the same time, restrictions on the extent of the electorate, once numerous, are being removed, this process making it coincide more and more with the politically capable population of the state Also the growing size and powers of the electorate have brought into prominence certain defects of democracy in incompetence, extravagance, instability and lack of interest, and this revelation has led in recent years to a reaction in favor of the greater efficiency to be secured by trained experts, Chosen by civil service tests or by appointment, and by a shorter ballot, concentrating the attention of the voters on the important and conspicuous offices only.
In the opinion of many the devices of direct democracy, such as the direct primary and the initiative, referendum, and recall, have not worked as well as was expected, from the point of view either of increasing the intelligence and interest of the voters or of improving the efficiency of government.
In a direct democracy it is conceivable that the wishes of a minority, consisting of almost half the entire electorate, might be completely disregarded. To prevent this possible tyranny of the majority, a number of devices are in Use, granting to minorities more or less share in authority.
The systems of federal government and of local self government there are favorable to minorities in that they allow local communities to adjust government to their own needs, and avoid the possible dissatisfaction that uniform legislation over the entire area of the state would create. Besides, in driving state into districts and sub districts with officials and representatives chosen separately by each, the chance that the minority will control some place in much greater than would be the case if all officials were chosen on a general ticket. In all states national legislatures are elected by the case if all officials were chosen on a general ticket.
In all states national legislature are elected by districts based usually on the principle of representing approximately equal numbers of population by the process known as gerrymandering the authority having the right of redistribute these district often arranges them in such a way as to make it difficult for the minority to control any of them or, by combining the minority votes in a few districts, gives them fewer representatives than their strength really deserves. Because of unequal growth of population frequent changes in the distribution of districts are necessary if, as is usually the case, population is the basis of representation.
Within the districts, even when honestly and equally established, there are always minorities whose votes, cam for defeated candidates, are lost and various schemes of minority representation hate been proposed and in some cases put into practice. Sometimes it is provided by law that certain boards or commissions shall not contain more than a certain number of members of one political party, thus guaranteeing minority representation.
In districts where more than one candidate is to be elected, the plan of limited voting, by which each voter is allowed fewer votes than there are places to be filled, results, unless the majority party is strong enough to divide its votes and still win, in the election of some minority members. From 1867 to 1885 this plan was tried in England, voters in places sending more than two members to Parliament being each allowed one vote less than the number of members to be chosen. In cumulative voting each voter has as many votes as there are candidates to be elected, and may distribute them as he likes. In this way a minority, if it concentrates its votes on one candidate, has a good chance to secure his election. This method is in use in Illinois, where three members are chosen to the lower house of the legislature from each district, and results in giving the minority about one third of the members.
Many political reformers have favored some form of proportional representation. According to this plan large electoral districts are used, each providing several representatives, and the system of voting is so arranged that the representatives Will be allotted to the different parties in proportion to the number of votes cast by that party.
Two main systems of proportional representation are in use. English opinion favors the method of the single transferable vote known as the Hare system. According to this plan each voter has a single vote,but may indicate his preference among the candidates by stating his first choice, second choice and so on. The quota, or number of votes required for election, is then ascertained by one of two methods the number of vows cast is divided by the number of representatives to be elected, or, in order to make the result more accurate, by one more than the number of representatives In counting the votes, a candidate who receives sufficient first choice votes to fill his quota is declared elected.
His surplus votes, if any, are passed on to candidates not yet elected, in the order expressed in the preferences. If any candidate is elected by the votes he receives as second choice, his surplus votes are given to the third choice, and so on until the full number of seats are filled. Obviously, there is a considerable amount of chance in the order in which the ballots are counted, and various devices have been suggested to secure greater accuracy. Continental opinion favors the list system, under which the voter votes for the party list and also expresses his preference among the candidates upon the list. Each party secures representation in proportion to the votes cast for its list, and the members apportioned to each party go to the candidates in the order in which they appear on the list prepared by the party unless the voters express a different preference.
Proportional representation is in use in the Irish Free State, in the Scandinavian countries, in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and exists in many of the small new states of central Europe. It is also employed in municipal elections in some cities in Canada and the United States. Proportional voting represents more accurately the real wishes of the voters than the system of majority or plurality voting in single member districts, but in countries where there are many political parties it often results in legislatures containing so many party groups that action is impeded and responsibility dissipated.
in Prussia a form of minority representation aiming to guard the interests of the upper classes was formerly in use. Voters were divided into three classes, not numerically, but according to wealth, each class representing one third of the taxable property of the district and each class elected one third of the representatives or officials to which the district was entitled.
A comparatively small number of wealthy men composed the first class a somewhat larger number of well to do, the second and the great majority of citizens, the third Hence a very small number elected one third of the officials, and a minority usually controlled two thirds. In Belgium a somewhat similar system was in use until 1913, citizens having certain qualifications as to age, property, education, etc being given either one or two additional votes.
In England and America plurality is usually sufficient for election. Since in these countries there are usually but two leading candidates, this convenient method works little hardship, although when there are more than two candidates the one elected may receive considerably less than a majority of the votes cast. In Europe, where party groups are numerous absolute majority is often required.
In some countries, if no one receives a majority on the first ballot, a new election is held at which a plurality is sufficient to elect. This encourages numerous groups to show their strength on the first ballot. hoping to win concessions from the leading candidates on the second. In other countries, if no candidate receives a majority a new election decides between the two candidates that received the highest number of votes at the first election.
The peculiar arithmetical system by which presidential electors are distributed in the United States (each commonwealth being entitled to as many as it has senators and representatives in Congress, thus giving an advantage to the small commonwealths because of equal representation in the Senate and the custom of voting for presidential electors on a general ticket so that, no matter how small the majority the entire electoral vote of a commonwealth is cast for the candidate of the party that wins the election), make it possible for a president to be elected who receives a minority of the total popular vote.
A modified form of minority representation was found in the attempt, formerly common, to represent separately the important classes, professions, or interests in the state. In the Middle Ages the three estate clergy, nobility, and commons received distinct representation, and the constitutions of upper houses in some European states still show survivals off distinctions landowners churchmen, large taxpayers, representatives of army and navy, and men distinguished in science and an m found in upper houses, and are chosen for the purpose of representing interests or classes rather than population or territorial divisions.
In the United States the legal profession has wielded an influence in politics out of all proportion to its numerical strength. In recent years various theories of representation at economic interests or of occupational groups have been ardently supported, and this principle was incorporated to some extent in the Soviet system of Russia and in the syndicates in Fascist Italy. It underlies in general the new theories of communism, of syndicalism, and of guild socialism.