This article will attempt to give some background and bring you up-to-date on our study of Representative Government. The League chooses its national program at a convention held every two years. The REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT portfolio which I hold as a board member, includes five sub-topics: U.S. CONGRESS - study of and action for responsive legislative procedures; ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT - action for election of the president and vice-president of the United States by direct national popular vote; DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - action for self-government and representation in Congress for citizens of the District of Columbia; APPORTIONMENT - action for apportionment substantially on population of congressional districts and of all elected state and local governmental bodies; VOTING RIGHTS - action to protect the right to vote of every citizen.
U.S. Congress - A study of Congress was added to the League agenda at the 1970 convention. After an 18-month study which concentrated on three components of the legislative process, a consensus was reached which can be summed up in two words: greater responsiveness.
The evaluation covered such specifics as the committee system, the rules for proceedings and debate, how money is appropriated, and how
Congress relates to other branches of government.
On the basis of study and consensus, the League -maintains that if the legislative processes of Congress are to be responsive, then the
structures, procedures and practices of the U.S. Congress must be accountable, representative, decisive and effective. The League supports basic changes and reforms both in formal procedures and in the whole decision-making process in Congress. We want the seniority system modified, and we call for a review of both the functions of committees and their membership. Also on our action agenda; freedom of information, open hearings and accurate reporting in the Congressional Record -- all imperative for an informed citizenry. To implement the will of the majority while also guaranteeing the rights of minority interest, we want the cloture rule modified to a 3/5 majority, and we also
seek new mechanisms to facilitate the discharge of bills from committee.
The League proposes to use diverse techniques to bring about the above changes and reforms. Community education is the first and central course of action. Through broadly based discussion and dissemination of information and ideas, we will build the solid citizen backing that will convince our representatives of citizen interest in what they do and how they do it.
A decision to continue to study Congress was made at the recently held '72 convention.
Election of the President - The Electoral College item was added to our national program at the 1968 convention. During 1969 the House passed a resolution calling for abolition of the Electoral College and direct election of the president -- the first time a direct popular election plan had ever been voted on by either house. In the Senate, several reform plans were considered in committee but none got to the floor. This activity in Congress, plus a growing public awareness of the issue, provided a for-real backdrop for the continuing study.
By early January 1970, the national position was defined. Members agreed to back not just electoral reform in general, but a particular approach: direct election of the President by popular vote, with a provision for a runoff if neither set of candidates receives 40% of the popular vote.
The League has argued effectively against retaining an already inefficient and "unrepresentative" system and has stressed the urgency of citizen participation in choosing the nation's highest "elected" officials.
We testified and lobbied for our position throughout 1970. When a joint resolution was finally reported to the Senate floor, it had a provision identical to ours. But the 91st Congress closed with no action taken.
District of Columbia - At its 1972 convention the League renewed its commitment to push for changes in the status of our "Last Colony." Local Leagues will be engaging in community education through, media campaigns and precision questioning of their congressional representatives to let them know that people outside Washington want full participation in the political process for the citizens of the District of Columbia.
It was in 1924 that the LWV adopted its position of District representation in Congress and 19__ when we started to support the cause of self-government for D.C.
In 1970 the League gathered over a million and a half signatures on a petition asking that Congress propose for state ratification an amendment granting D.C. citizens full voting representation in Congress. The momentum created by the petition drive and related work on the Hill culminated in a partial success; a nonvoting delegate for D.C.. We hope that this is just a stop-gap solution until D.C. citizens are granted full voting representation for the District of Columbia.
Apportionment - Recent years have witnessed a growing determination to equalize citizens votes by removing the sharp variations between the number of people in voting districts. Without this kind of equality, some of those elected speak and vote for a small constituency, some for a large. Some people are overrepresented, others underrepresented.'"
Fortunately Hawaii's legislature has been reapportioned and there is a provision in the State Constitution to periodically adjust representation as necessary. The new City Charter will provide for reapportionment on the City level.
Voting Rights - Members proposed that the 1970 convention adopt a bylaw under the Program article as the authority for action, to protect the right of every citizen to vote. They felt that support and protection of the right is basic to the purpose of the League.
Although the League has a long history of voters service, legislative action on behalf of voters' rights had not been possible. Under this bylaw, Leagues are now equipped to act with vigor to "protect the right to vote of every citizen." Almost immediately after the May 1979 adoption, the LWV actively supported the 1970 Amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Locally, we have no problems in this area. All the League's positions have been incorporated into our voting laws.