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Opinion of the Court.

343 U.S.

didate for elector as to his vote in the electoral college weighs heavily in considering the constitutionality of a pledge, such as the one here required, in the primary.

However, even if such promises of candidates for the electoral college are legally unenforceable because violative of an assumed constitutional freedom of the elector under the Constitution, Art. II, § 1, to vote as he may choose in the electoral college, it would not follow that the requirement of a pledge in the primary is unconstitutional. A candidacy in the primary is a voluntary act of the applicant. He is not barred, discriminatorily, from participating but must comply with the rules of the party. Surely one may voluntarily assume obligations to vote for a certain candidate. The state offers him opportunity to become a candidate for elector on his own terms, although he must file his declaration before the primary. Ala. Code, Tit. 17, § 145. Even though the victory of an independent candidate for elector in Alabama cannot be anticipated, the state does offer the opportunity for the development of other strong political organizations where the need is felt for them by a sizable block of voters. Such parties may leave their electors to their own choice.

the surnames. A sufficient square in which each voter may designate by a cross (X) his choice for electors shall be left at the right of each political designation."

See S. Doc. No. 243, 78th Cong., 2d Sess. (1944), containing a summary of the state laws relating to nominations and election of presidential electors.

See Library of Congress, Legislative Reference Service, Proposed Reform of the Electoral College, 1950; Edward Stanwood, A History of the Presidency from 1788 to 1897 (1912), pp. 47, 48, 50, 51. The author shows the practice of an elector's announcing his preference and gives an alleged instance of violation.

See the comments on instruction of electors in State Law on the Nomination, Election, and Instruction of Presidential Electors, by Ruth C. Silva, 42 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 523.


JACKSON, J., dissenting.

We conclude that the Twelfth Amendment does not bar a political party from requiring the pledge to support the nominees of the National Convention. Where a state authorizes a party to choose its nominees for elector in a party primary and to fix the qualifications for the candidates, we see no federal constitutional objection to the requirement of this pledge.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, not having heard the argument, owing to illness, took no part in the disposition of the case.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins, dissenting.

The Constitution and its Twelfth Amendment allow each State, in its own way, to name electors with such personal qualifications, apart from stated disqualifications, as the State prescribes. Their number, the time. that they shall be named, the manner in which the State must certify their ascertainment and the determination of any contest are prescribed by federal law. U. S. Const., Art. II, § 1, 3 U. S. C. §§ 1-7. When chosen, they perform a federal function of balloting for President and Vice President, federal law prescribing the time of meeting, the manner of certifying "all the votes given by them," and in detail how such certificates shall be transmitted and counted. U. S. Const., Amend. XII, 3 U. S. C. §§ 9– 20. But federal statute undertakes no control of their votes beyond providing "The electors shall vote for President and Vice President, respectively, in the manner di

JACKSON, J., dissenting.

343 U.S.

rected by the Constitution," 3 U. S. C. § 8, and the Constitution requires only that they "vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves." U. S. Const., Amend. XII. No one faithful to our history can deny that the plan originally contemplated, what is implicit in its text, that electors would be free agents, to exercise an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the men best qualified for the Nation's highest offices.* Certainly under that plan no state law could control the elector in performance of his federal duty, any more than it could a United States Senator who also is chosen by, and represents, the State.

This arrangement miscarried. Electors, although often personally eminent, independent, and respectable, officially became voluntary party lackeys and intellectual nonentities to whose memory we might justly paraphrase a tuneful satire:

They always voted at their Party's call

And never thought of thinking for themselves at all. As an institution the Electoral College suffered atrophy almost indistinguishable from rigor mortis.

*See The Federalist, No. 68 (Earle ed., 1937), pp. 441-442:

"It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preëstablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

"It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations."


JACKSON, J., dissenting.

However, in 1948, Alabama's Democratic Party Electors refused to vote for the nominee of the Democratic National Convention. To put an end to such party unreliability the party organization, exercising state-delegated authority, closed the official primary to any candidate for elector unless he would pledge himself, under oath, to support any candidate named by the Democratic National Convention. It is conceded that under longprevailing conditions this effectively forecloses any chance of the State being represented by an unpledged elector. In effect, before one can become an elector for Alabama, its law requires that he must pawn his ballot to a candidate not yet named, by a convention not yet held, of delegates not yet chosen. Even if the nominee repudiates the platform adopted by the same convention, as Democratic nominees have twice done in my lifetime (1904, 1928), the elector is bound to vote for him. It will be seen that the State has sought to achieve control of the electors' ballots. But the balloting cannot be constitutionally subjected to any such control because it was intended to be free, an act performed after all functions of the electoral process left to the States have been completed. The Alabama Supreme Court held that such a requirement violates the Federal Constitution, and I agree.

It may be admitted that this law does no more than to make a legal obligation of what has been a voluntary general practice. If custom were sufficient authority for amendment of the Constitution by Court decree, the decision in this matter would be warranted. Usage may sometimes impart changed content to constitutional generalities, such as "due process of law," "equal protection," or "commerce among the states." But I do not think powers or discretions granted to federal officials by the Federal Constitution can be forfeited by the Court for disuse. A political practice which has its origin in custom must rely upon custom for its sanctions.

JACKSON, J., dissenting.

343 U.S.

The demise of the whole electoral system would not impress me as a disaster. At its best it is a mystifying and distorting factor in presidential elections which may resolve a popular defeat into an electoral victory. At its worst it is open to local corruption and manipulation, once so flagrant as to threaten the stability of the country. To abolish it and substitute direct election of the President, so that every vote wherever cast would have equal weight in calculating the result, would seem to me a gain for simplicity and integrity of our governmental processes.

But the Court's decision does not even move in that direction. What it is doing is to entrench the worst features of the system in constitutional law and to elevate the perversion of the forefathers' plan into a constitutional principle. This judicial overturn of the theory that has come down to us cannot plead the excuse that it is a practical remedy for the evils or weaknesses of the system.

The Court is sanctioning a new instrument of power in the hands of any faction that can get control of the Democratic National Convention to make it sure of Alabama's electoral vote. When the party is in power this will likely be the administration faction and when not in power no one knows what group it will be. This device of prepledged and oath-bound electors imposes upon the party within the State an oath-bound regularity and loyalty to the controlling element in the national party. It centralizes party control and, instead of securing for the locality a share in the central management, it secures the central management in dominance of the local vote in the Electoral College. If we desire free elections, we should not add to the leverage over local party representatives always possessed by those who enjoy the prestige and dispense the patronage of a national administration.

The view of many that it is the progressive or liberal element of the party that will presently advantage from this device does not prove that the device itself has any

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