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hitherto unnoticed, over single-district voting. Under the district system, a large part of the citizens of a state are absolutely barred from an election to congress; they cannot be chosen in districts where their party has not a preponderance of vote; the difference in strength between parties may be slight, but it will virtually constitute a rule of exclusion, which will be rigidly enforced. But the cumulative or free vote opens the doors of the people's house to any citizen of a state, whenever those who agree with him in opinion, in his state, will give him a competent support; they can elect him to congress regardless of state or district majorities. This is an advantage of immense value, if republican principles be true, and republican institutions worthy of being carried to their utmost limit of perfection, as fit and proper for the use and enjoyment of mankind.
Our states are well suited to the application of the free vote; the difficulties and obstacles which exist in Great Britain do not obtain with us. There are now only six states to which it will not apply as a plan for representative elections, to wit, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon; they constitute the one-member states, and would be unaffected by the new plan. But from this class, Kansas will pass at the next apportionment, leaving but five states out of thirty-seven, to compose this class; and as they would select but five representatives, out of about 250 who will constitute the house, their influence upon general results would be unimportant, if not inappreciable. It is to be remarked also, that these states, in common with all the other states, might come under the operation of the free vote, if that vote should be applied to presidential elections, because each of them will be entitled to choose three electors.
The two-member states are Rhode Island and Minnesota, and both will probably change their position at the next apportionment of representatives; Rhode Island will fall off to one member, and Minnesota rise to three.
Other states, however, two or three in number, may take their place, and hence, it will be worth while to consider the position of two-member states, with reference to the plan of the free vote. It has been sometimes said, without due reflection, that the cumulative vote is not suited to elections where two persons are to be chosen by a constituency, because, if it have any practical effect, it will give equal representation to the majority and minority; but the frequent application of the limited vote to dual elections (as in the cases of inspectors of elections and jury commissioners in Pennsylvania), may cause us to pause, and examine this objection with some care, before we accept it as a sound one. Carefully examined, it may turn out to be more specious than solid, and we may further discover that, in the case of the representation of our states in the federal government, there is an important fact which bears upon this objection, and deprives it of any appearance even of strength or force. In the first place, let us test the objection, and illustrate its futility by a supposable case; take a constituency of 32,000 electors, 20,000 of whom are republicans, and 12,000 democrats, entitled to elect two members to congress; as there are 32,000 voters and two members to be chosen, the full ratio or number of votes for a member is 16,000; assign now one member to the republicans, and the just demand of 16,000 republican voters is complied with and exhausted; they can have no further claim to representation. What have we left? Why, on the one hand, 4000 republican voters, and on the other, 12,000 democrats; and the simple question for us to determine is, whether the 4000 or the 12,000 shall have the second member; the cumulative or the free vote will give that second member to the 12,000 democrats; unjust voting will give him to the 4000 republicans.
Where, then, a minority in a two-member constituency exceeds one-third of the whole number of voters therein, it does not seem unreasonable to assign to them the second
member, and thus, in fact, an equality of representation with the majority. It is a case where complete or exact justice is impossible; there must be disfranchisement to some extent; but that disfranchisement should be reduced to its minimum, and made to press as lightly as may be upon the constituency. What, then, can be said as to two-member constituencies is this, that any rule of voting for them must, in the very nature of the case, be imperfect in result, but that the cumulative vote or an equivalent plan, applied even to them, will be one of reform and improvement.
But an important consideration remains to be mentioned; our states are represented in both houses of congress, and not merely in one; a fact which changes entirely the character of this question in the two-member states. In Great Britain, there is no representation of the people, or even of districts, in the upper house of parliament; compensation to a constituency for loss of political power in the house of commons cannot be obtained by them in the house of lords. With us the case is widely different; the political majority in a state will, ordinarily, have both the senators from the state; in other words, the whole representation of the state in the senate. If, then, in two-member states, they have but one-half the representation of the state in the house (as against a minority of one-third or upwards), the aggregate of their representation in congress, will still be many times over what it should be, upon any principle of justice or of numbers.
It is pretty generally agreed, that the cumulative or free vote is admirably suited to three-member constituencies; the states which now elect three members each, are Arkansas, California, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia; in such states, the majority will always have two members, and the minority, if it exceed one-fourth the whole constituency, and one-third of the majority vote, can obtain the third. We cannot better illustrate the
scheme than by the case of Vermont; in that state, there are, in round numbers, 60,000 voters, of whom 40,000 are members of the republican party, and 20,000 of the democratic party; by law, that state is entitled to three representatives in congress. Now, what ought to take place? The majority should elect two representatives, having 40,000 votes, and the minority should elect one, having 20,000 votes; but can that be so, in point of fact, at present? If the electors of that state vote for three representatives, by general ticket, the majority would elect the whole three; if the state be divided up into single districts, it is a matter of chance (or rather, perhaps, a matter of honesty in the political majority of the legislature) how the result will be, whether all three districts will have majorities of the same political complexion or not. By cumulative voting, by authorizing the 20,000 minority electors of the state to give each three votes to one candidate, that candidate would receive 60,000 votes, and the majority could not defeat him; the majority, voting for two representatives, could elect them, but they could not elect the third. Suppose they attempt to vote for three candidates, they can only give each of them 40,000 votes, and the minority candidate has 60,000; if they attempt to vote for two, as they ought to do, that being the number they are entitled to, they can give them 60,000 votes each, the same number the minority candidate has; if they attempted to vote for one, they would give that one candidate 120,000; but, of course, they would not thus throw away their votes. The practical result would be, that the 40,000 majority electors in that state would vote for two candidates and elect them, and the 20,000 minority electors would vote for one and elect him.
Having exhausted the list of states which elect less than four members, we find that twenty-four remain; of these, Connecticut, South Carolina and Texas each elect four members, and the remainder, various numbers, up to New
York which chooses thirty-one; they may be taken together in this examination, as an additional, though by far the most important class of states; they choose 218 out of the 243 members of the house. In this class, all the great states are before us, and all of secondary rank, challenging the wisdom of congress to reform and amend our political system, in some effectual manner; for our country has, in some respects, outgrown the system provided for us by our ancestors; new necessities press upon us, great evils afflict us, and it has become the duty of statesmen, not merely to administer or to carry on our plan of government, but to amend it also; and to this end, we are to invite and welcome the best thoughts of men, abroad and at home, upon political reform, and give them, as far as possible, application and practical effect. Now, there can be no question that, if parties in the great states obtain representation according to the number of their votes, one of the greatest possible reforms in a republican government will be secured. All the arguments heretofore mentioned apply to those states with special force, because they contribute the main body of members to the house, and a defective plan of election operates within them with extensive effect. As to them, reform will be most important and useful, and no reasonable effort should be spared in attempting to apply it.
We have, in fact, as to the great states, no point left for examination, except the single one of practicability. Will the free vote work, and work well, in the great states? Those who distrust popular intelligence and judgment may deny, whilst those who confide in the people will affirm the practicability of the plan. But there is one leading consideration which is decisive upon this question; it is, that where free action shall be permitted, each political party will pursue its own interests with activity, intelligence and zeal, and will inevitably obtain for itself its due share of representative power. Thus, where a party shall have one-third of the popular vote of the state,