The History of the New York City Legislature

By Frederick Shaw | Go to book overview

11. FIVE P. R. ELECTIONS AND REPEAL

In a representative body actually deliberating, the minority must of course be overruled. . . . But does it follow that the minority should have no representation at all? . . . In a really equal democracy every or any section would be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately.--JOHN STUARTMILL1

THE FIRST P. R. election in New York marked the Hare system's greatest victory and its greatest challenge. Never before had it been employed on so large a scale or among so diverse a population. The electorate of Ireland, which had adopted it for national elections, was less than half the size and far more homogeneous than the voters of New York. For these reasons it was inevitable that the city's experiment with P. R. would attract wide attention.

Unfortunately the very officials responsible for putting it into effect were hostile. Although court decisions bearing on the constitutionality of P. R. were rendered too late to enable them to order voting machines in time for the first election, the politically controlled Board of Elections failed to complete plans for counting paper ballots until the last possible moment. Samuel Seabury charged that they deliberately used dilatory tactics to discredit P. R. and pave the way for the return of the district system of voting. The Civil Service Commission accused them of failure to comply with the charter provisions for testing candidates for voting canvasser.2

____________________
1
On Liberty, Representative Government, the Subjugation of Women ( London, 1948), p. 248.
2
In Finegan v. Cohen, 275 N. Y. 432 (1937), the right of the Civil Service Commission to give an examination for employees in the central count was upheld. See also George H. McCaffrey, "New York's 1937 Election and Its Results," Nat. Mun. Rev., XXVII, 42; Samuel Seabury, "Proportional Representation andthe Constitutional Convention,"

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