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CONVENTION METHOD OF MAKING NOMINATIONS
of nominating candidates for the various offices. In like manner, candidates for city, county, and national offices are nominated by city, county, and national conventions. These conventions are called by party committees; that is, a city convention is called by the city committee of the party holding the convention, a county convention by the county committee, and so on.
Each committee was chosen by a former convention, and each convention chooses a new committee to provide for the next convention.
Delegates to city conventions are chosen by the voters of the respective political parties at primary elections.? Delegates to county conventions are sometimes chosen at primary elections, and sometimes appointed by county committees. Delegates to state and congressional district conventions are usually chosen by county conventions; and delegates to national conventions, by state and congressional district conventions; but primary elections are sometimes used in choosing each one of these groups of delegates.
The convention method was used in California until 1909, but our legislature of that year passed a law providing for direct primary elections, and doing away with nominating conventions. The convention method proved unsatisfactory, especially in the nomination of candidates for state and local offices, because it usually resulted in the nomination of candidates whom the voters of the various parties did not want. Our public officers were often found to be more solicitous about the wants and interests of private individuals and private corporations than about public wants and interests. The cause of this lies in the fact that
1 Not direct primary elections.
nominating conventions were often controlled by men who, more or less secretly, represented great private interests.
Such men are known as political bosses. The history of American politics abounds in the names of local, state, and national bosses. A boss is a party leader of a certain type. Every organized group of persons, whether they constitute a business firm, a club, a lodge, a church, or a political party, must have leaders; for without leaders they could not accomplish the purpose for which they are banded together. A leader is one who possesses originality, who is willing to assume responsibility, who has enthusiasm, who is able to express himself with clearness and force, and who appears to be honest. The voters of any political party look to the party leaders for guidance, and will usually give them loyal support as long as they work together. They will work together best when they themselves are controlled by one mind.
If a leader among political leaders uses his influence and power for the public good, we call him a statesman; if he is in politics for his own advantage, or for the advantage of private interests, we call him a political boss. A statesman has principles and usually seeks office in order that he may put them into practice; a boss is actuated by the desire to benefit the private interests which he serves, and usually does not seek office, for he can best attain his ends by naming and controlling public officials, while he himself remains nominally in private life. The nominating convention has been for many years the stronghold of his power. Through his lieutenants, the local leaders, — in various counties, cities, precincts, or wards, he names the delegates to every convention of his party, and is thus able to place men of his choice in nomination for the various offices.
ATTEMPTS TO OVERTHROW BOSSISM IN CALIFORNIA
The organization which he builds up, consisting of party leaders, party committees, officeholders, office seekers, and the representatives of powerful private interests, is called a political “ machine."
7. Attempts to overthrow Bossism in California. — Every session of the legislature after 1890 witnessed some attempt to place the voters of California in a position to break the power of political bosses. Laws passed in 1895 and 1897 providing for primary elections were declared unconstitutional by the supreme court, but valuable experience was gained through these attempts. A comprehensive primary law was passed in 1901, which broke up certain evil practices connected with the selection of delegates to party conventions, but failed to accomplish the one great purpose for which it was intended. It provided that all delegates to all party conventions representing the people of any city which contained a population of seventy-five hundred, according to the census of 1900, should be elected directly by the voters. The law was thus mandatory in the twelve largest cities of the state; but any other city or county that chose to do so could take advantage of its provisions. It failed of its purpose because it demanded too much of the voters.
A voter on primary election day was called upon to vote for ten, fifteen, twenty, or possibly thirty delegates to this or that convention of his party. The law permitted him to write the required number of names on his ballot, but this he seldom did for the reason that he could not do so without a great deal of previous preparation. Few voters went to the polls prepared to vote. But the political chine " was not so neglectful. It systematically prepared in advance
1 Political bosses often procured the selection of such delegates as they desired by causing groups of voters to go from one precinct to another, or even from one city to another, to participate in party caucuses and primaries; and voters were frequently induced to participate in the primaries of parties other than their own. The law of 1901, requiring that all parties should hold their primaries on the same day, that such elections should be conducted in the same manner as regular elections, that none but registered voters could vote, and that the name of every person who voted and the name of his political party should be kept, and providing severe punishments for those who committed frauds at primary elections, — put an end to these gross practices. This considerably weakened, but did not overthrow, boss rule.
lists of names for the voter's use. These lists were printed on slips of paper of convenient size and prepared with an adhesive substance on the back, like a postage stamp. All the voter had to do was to paste one of these lists on his ballot, and this was practically all he could do. Thus the delegates to party conventions were still really selected, in our larger cities, by the political “ machines,” which were parts of a great machine dominating the politics of the state. In other parts of California they were selected as party committees directed. These committees were uniformly made up of “ machine"
Although the law of 1901 was inadequate, it gave more power to the voters than they had previously possessed; and it should be regarded as an important step in the struggle against boss and “ machine " rule in California, for through it the people who favored reform in state and local politics were able to elect a majority of the members of the legislature in November, 1908.
8. The California Direct Primary Law. - Following the example of the lawmaking bodies of Oregon, Minnesota, and a number of other states, our legislature in March, 1909, passed a law providing for the nomination of candidates by direct primaries.
A direct primary is an election at which candidates for office are nominated directly by the voters, nominating conventions being done away with. The law of 1909 was changed in some important particulars by the legislature in 1911, and again in 1913, and we shall consider it in its amended form.
1. When Primaries are Held. — A primary election is held throughout the state on the last Tuesday in August of each even-numbered year," for the nomination of all candidates to be voted for at the ensuing November election.” This provides for the nomination of candidates for all state, county, and township offices, as well as for the offices of United States senator and representative in Congress.
A primary election is also held on the first Tuesday in May of every presidential election year to choose delegates to national conventions, and to give each voter an opportunity to designate the one he prefers as the candidate of his party for the presidency.
Most city charters contain special provisions governing the nomination and election of city officers. In such cities the state primary law does not apply in nominating candidates for municipal offices. It must be used, however, in cities whose charters contain no such provisions, except in those governed by the sixth class charter. In cities where the law applies, the primary election must be held on Tuesday three weeks before the regular municipal election.
2. The First Steps. — In every even-numbered year, at least forty days before the August primary election, the secretary of state in Sacramento must send to the various county clerks, or to the registrar of voters', a notice designating the offices for which candidates are to be nominated. Each county clerk, or registrar of voters, must publish “in not more than two newspapers published in the county as much of this information as is applicable to his county. This publication must be for two weeks beginning within ten days from the receipt of the notice. In case of a city primary election held under the state law, the city clerk must by one publication give notice of the election and of the offices for which candidates are to be nominated, not more than forty nor less than twenty-five days in advance.
3. Primary Election Ballots. — Printed ballots for state and county elections are furnished in each county by the county clerk, or by the registrar of voters, and ballots for
1 San Francisco has a special officer, known as the registrar of voters, who does all the work pertaining to elections that is done by county and city clerks elsewhere in the state. Los Angeles county has also a registrar of voters. Throughout this chapter it should be understood that whenever county or city clerks are referred to, the registrar of voters is meant in so far as either San Francisco or Los Angeles county is concerned.