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trust. They should be kept in office only so long as they are faithful to the best interests of the communities which elected them. If they fail to represent these communities properly, or if by some act they prove themselves unworthy of trust, the voters should at the next election choose other officers in their place.
How does a voter cast his ballot?
Voting places (also called “the polls") are appointed in each of the election districts (“wards” or “precincts”) into which a city or town is divided. The voter is required to go to some particular one of these voting places, according to the street on which he lives. At the polls, an officer in charge of the election asks the voter's name, and his address; then he consults the “Voting List” and if the voter is there registered, he is given the ballot on which are printed the names of the men nominated for office, also any questions which are to be decided by vote of the people. The voter then goes to a voting booth, marks his ballot, and folds it so as to hide his markings. He then takes his ballot to another election officer who again checks the voter's name on his list, and deposits the ballot in the ballot-box.
Why should the voter's ballot be secret?
Because no one should be permitted to control a citizen's vote or to influence him to vote against his convictions of what is best for his community. No one should be forced to vote in a certain way simply because he belongs to a certain political party. The secret ballot protects the citizen in his right to vote according to his best judgment.
Why is it a crime to buy or sell a citizen's vote?
Because the right to vote is given to citizens as a trust. It should be held as a precious right and should be exercised for the public good.
It is by the votes of its citizens that the United States has
been preserved. It is by their votes that it will be preserved in the future.
22. Political parties in the United States. 1
Political parties are made up of men who hold similar views on questions of public policy. The most important work of a political party is the nomination for public office of candidates who are pledged to carry out certain policies. A party expresses its policies in what is known as the “party platform.'
“Political parties are unavoidable under a form of government like ours. They are the means of securing united action among the voters who think alike. A voter cannot accomplish much unless he belongs to a party and works and votes with it. Yet it must be remembered that a party is merely a means to accomplish a result, and not in itself a sacred thing. The purpose of a party should be to secure good government for all the people. The words of Washington in his Farewell Address should always be kept in mind by the patriotic American citizen. He said: “The spirit of party, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy. The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissensions ... is itself a frightful despotism. ... The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain
23. The “Spoils System."
"It early became the practice of a victorious party to dismiss many members of the defeated party who were holding Government positions, and to fill their places with its own members. This plan is known as the ‘spoils system,' because it was founded on the principle that 'to the victors belong the spoils.'
1 Paragraphs 22, 23, and 24 are quoted from The Community and the Citizen, by A. W. Dunn. By courtesy of Messrs. D. C. Heath & Co.
“The spoils system brought with it a train of evils. The changes made in the civil service with each change of administration were injurious to the efficiency of the service. The worst evil was the habit it cultivated of looking upon the offices of Government as booty, to be sought for, and even fought for, as rewards for party service. The man who works for a party merely for what he can get out of it in the shape of a salaried office is not a safe man for the people to put their confidence in as their representative in Government.”
24. The civil service.
"By far the greatest number of the offices of Government are filled by appointment and not by election. These appointive places constitute the civil service. There are about three hundred thousand such offices or positions under the National Government, and probably as many more under the State and local governments. It is necessary that some of the more important of these offices should be filled by men who will sympathize with the policy of the Government as indicated by the party in power, as in the positions of the cabinet officers who are advisers with the President and carry out his policy. There are, however, some offices in which party feeling should not be allowed to enter at all, as in the case of judges of our courts. Their business is to interpret the law and to render justice, which is always the same under any party. There are many thousands of other offices, or Government positions, in which a man's party beliefs would make no difference in the performance of his duty, as in the case of postmen and mail clerks.
“A great deal has been done in the last few years to destroy the spoils system of making appointments to office. In 1883 a civil service law was passed, and a Civil Service Commission created by Congress, for the purpose of improving conditions. By this act a merit system of making appointments was introduced. By the merit system, candidates for the civil service must pass a competi
tive examination to show fitness, and when appointed, they hold office during good behavior. At first this system was applied to only a few of the offices, but the number of offices in which it operates has steadily increased, until to-day more than half of the national offices are subject to it. The merit system of appointment has been adopted also in some States and cities.”
25. Local government.
What is town government?
The form of government in which the laws are made by the people directly instead of through their representatives. At "town meetings” all the voters of the town meet for voting upon matters of common concern. They elect an executive board of from three to nine members called the selectmen, and the officers who keep the records, and who supervise education, etc. This practice is possible only in the smaller communities and is most common in rural localities, that is, in the country where there are comparatively few people. When the population of a town becomes large, the city form of government is generally established.
How is city government established ? A city is given its charter by the State legislature. What is the form of city government? There is (1) The legislative department -- the city council.1 (2) The executive department - the mayor, or the board
of commissioners as the case may be. (3) The judicial department - comprising certain courts.
Their authority, however, comes from the State -
not from the city itself. A few cities have adopted the “city-manager” plan. Under this, there is a small commission of three or five men which acts as a legislative body, appoints the manager, and holds him responsible for the management of the city's affairs. The commissioners themselves are elected by the people of the city, and are subject to be recalled from office.
1 In some cities there are two branches of the city council, called the council and the board of aldermen, which have jurisdiction within the city limits.
How are the mayor and the members of the council elected?
They are elected directly by the voters. In city elections, voters should bear in mind that city affairs are business, not politics; and they should try to elect those officers who will best safeguard the common good, without regard to political parties.
For convenience at election time, cities are usually subdivided into "wards," and wards are subdivided into “precincts,” each of which has its own voting place. You should learn the location of the place at which you are to cast your vote. Refer to page 32.
26. The State Government.
How is the Government of a State similar to the Government of the United States?
Each State has its own constitution, and its Government is divided into three departments.
These are: The legislative department, known as the legislature (sometimes called the general assembly, or the general court), which is composed of two houses, namely, the State Senate, and the State House of Representatives. The legislature makes the laws of the State. These must not be at variance with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. The legislature also imposes taxes and appropriates public money for all necessary State purposes. The legislature meets in the capital city of the State.
The second division of the State Government is the executive department, which enforces the laws, that is, sees that the people obey the laws. The chief executive is called the governor.