« ZurückWeiter »
Mr. ABBOTT. Before we proceed to the next section, Mr. Chairman, I wanted to find the language to which reference has just been made on the loyalty oath.
Mr. HILL. Section 29 of the act.
Mr. ABBOTT. I believe you stated, Mr. Hill, that the proposed amendment to section 3 would not, in your opinion, collide with the last paragraph of section 29.
Mr. Hill. No; it does not. Further than that, language to that effect is now in your merit-system law in the Virgin Islands, language to the effect of the proposed amendment to section 3.
Mr. ABBOTT. Are there any other observations of members or the panel sitting at the table?
Mr. Bough. I do not know whether it would be permissible for me to make an observation as an attorney rather than as a member of the revised organic act commission in this respect.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes. Mr. Bough. I think Congressman Aspinall's point is well taken. There might well be grounds for some differences of opinion in having those two sections in the act. My own philosophy conforms with this—that the bill of rights should be as broad as possible, without too many definitions and prescriptions, because the organic act is the basic law, and it should permit for growth as the community to which it applies develops.
My view is that the purposes which we have in mind are well served by the existing provision of section 29, and I would not be in favor of the inclusion of the proposed amendment to section because there is ground for the opinion that it would be conflicting.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I am inclined to agree with the gentleman. I have mentioned several times we have a constitution in New York State that has developed into a monstrosity; there is more statutory law in it than there is constitution.
(Subsequently the Democratic insular committee submitted the following statement for consideration :)
Section 3. Bill of rights.-We have no objection to the proposed amendment to section 3 as shown under “Proposed amendment to the 1954 organic act" in the comparative committee print.
Mr. ABBOTT. We come then to section 4. (Sec. 4 follows:)
SEC. 4. The franchise shall be vested in residents of the Virgin Islands who are citizens of the United States, twenty-one years of age or over. Additional qualifications may be prescribed by the legislature: Provided, however, That no property, language, or income qualification shall ever be imposed upon or required of any voter, nor shall any discrimination in qualification be made or based upon difference in race, color, sex, or religious belief.
Mr. ABBOTT. Section 4 provides that the franchise shall be vested in residents of the Virgin Islands who are citizens of the United States, 21 years of age or over.
Additional qualifications may be prescribed by the legislature, but not property, language, or income qualifications, nor discrimination based on difference in race, color, sex, or religious belief.
During the consideration of the legislation which became the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands proposals were made to insert the language which is now found in the proviso in section 4, which has the effect of prohibiting, among other things, a language qualification in order to entitle a resident of the Virgin Islands to vote.
A number of people from the Virgin Islands at that time argued that they would prefer to leave the law in the form in which it was found under the 1936 act, wherein there was no language prohibition. And when, of course, I say "language prohibition" I mean that the legislature would be denied the right to require, as the case was, that English reading and writing or speaking in any case be a qualification to vote.
In light of the fact that the organic act has had something over 2 years of operation, would any of you want to make any observations on that section 4 whether related to language requirement or otherwise?
Has the inclusion of that language term in there by way of prohibition done damage, in your view, or has it slowed the workings of the legislature or provided an imbalance, which was the concern, I believe, in 1954, from non-English-speaking people, American citizens who might have come to the Virgin Islands?
Mr. OTTLEY. There was a great deal of skepticism in 1954 about this provision, but I think our experience during the past 2 years has convinced most of us that the provision is a healthy one, and we are not in favor of changing it.
Mr. ABBOTT. Are there any other comments from other members of the panel ?
Mr. ASPINALL. I would like to ask a question of Mr. Ottley. As I remember, Mr. Ottley, heretofore you were one of those who felt perhaps you should have the possibility of the legislative body imposing the language qualification.
Mr. OTTLEY. That is right.
Mr. ASPINALL. And your experience is such that you feel now it is not necessary?
Mr. OTTLEY. That is right.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Is my understanding correct there is a very high (iegree of literacy in the islands?
Mr. OTTLEY. Yes, sir; over 90 percent.
Mr. AMBROSE. There was some question as to whether a requirement might not be inserted that would require reading and writing, not of the
English language, but reading and writing as is true in a number of States.
Now the question that arose in the first consideration was English; and, of course, because of a large number of Spanish-speaking people in the islands that was ruled out. But it still might be a good thing to require that a person be able to read and write in some language.
Mr. OTTLEY. That provision is in the election law; it is not necessary to put it in the organic act, I think, because any Spanish-speaking or any other person before he is permitted to vote has to pass a literacy test, whether in English, Spanish, or any other language according to the election law.
Mr. O'BRIEN. In actual experience have you found many people barred from the franchise through inability to read or write?
Mr. OTTLEY. Just a handful. I would say during the past 2 years, 1954–56, not more than a dozen Puerto Ricans were turned away because of that.
Mr. O'BRIEN. You do not find that among the people here, French or anyone like that?
Mr. OTTLEY. Of course, perhaps that statement might be more or less inaccurate because people realizing they cannot qualify do not appear before the election board. So there would be a larger number who cannot read or write but who do not appear.
Mr. O'BRIEN. You think it would be a very limited number?
Mr. BERRY. Might I ask what percentage of the eligible voters voted at the last election?
Mr. OTTLEY. I can give you a statement with respect to St. Thomas because I am familiar with that island. I am from that island. There were about 4,000 voters on the books here in St. Thomas, and there were 2,900 who voted in the last election. Of course, you
into that a little because we have a permanent registration here, and of the several hundreds of the people who appear on election lists, some are dead, some have gone away, some are too aged and infirm to come out to vote. Therefore, we do not get a complete picture, because some people have been on the books since 1936, and when we check the records we find some have not voted for 10 years. Some have gone away, as I said. We just cannot get a good picture of the situation.
Mr. BERRY. How many citizens do you have who are of voting age who are not on the election lists, do you know?
Mr. OTTLEY. We have never made a survey, sir. But you know we have in the Virgin Islands a large percentage of people who are of British ancestry and who are not citizens. They came in when the immigration laws were quite lax, and they do not qualify to vote. They make up a considerable percentage of the population.
Mr. O'Brien. Then you would think perhaps the 4,000 on the books pretty well represent the number eligible to vote?
Mr. OTTLEY. Pretty well; because all political parties have made good effort to get all eligible voters registered. We have pretty well covered the waterfront.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Then 2,900, assuming a certain number died and so forth, would be about 75 percent of the total registration.
Mr. OTTLEY. I would say 75 percent; yes, sir.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Governor Gordon, do you have something to add here?
Governor GORDON. I checked on the registration after the election. I found, as I remember the figures, 3,926 registered voters, which approximates the 4,000 Senator Ottley mentioned on St. Thomas; 3,981 voters, as I remember, on St. Croix; 422-I may be a little wrong, but I think four-hundred-and-twenty-some registered voters on St. John.
In analyzing the election figures, it is very difficult to determine how many people did vote, because each man can vote 4 times, so to speak, for district representatives or senators and 2 at-large senators.
If you count them on a party basis—and I think that is what Senator Ottley was talking about—it ran up around 17,000 votes cast. We know that could not be the situation because there are approximately 30,000 population and you do not get 17,000 voters. We have about 65 million that voted for President and you have 166 million people in the United States.
So if you figure on the basis of the registered voters, the percentage is just about right. You have a few over 8,000 registered voters in the Virgin Islands.
Mr. CLAUNCH. Here are some figures that you might be interested in:
The total would be 7,719. Another total would be 6,213. These figures are the figures of the entire balloting of all the candidates.
As I understand, I checked the figures for the Governor, and there were approximately 4,000 registered voters in St. Croix, approximately 4,000 registered voters in St. Thomas, four hundred-some in St. John. The percentage of people voting was approximately the same on all of the islands. It was approximately 75 percent of the people who voted.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you.
May I suggest at this time we have a rule of the House that photographs may not be taken of committee sessions, but there is nothing in the world to prevent the committee from accommodating the photographers. We will take a recess for about 3 minutes.
Mr. ABBOTT. We come to the several sections then dealing with the legislative branch. Again under previous order of the Chair, section 5 will be inserted at this point in the record.
(Sec. 5 follows:)
SEC. 5. (a) The legislative power and authority of the Virgin Islands shall be vested in a legislature, cor ing of one house, to be designated the "Legislature of the Virgin Islands”, herein referred to as the legislature.
(b) The legislature shall be composed of eleven members to be known as senators. The Virgin Islands shall be divided into three legislative districts, as follows: The District of Saint Thomas, comprising Saint Thomas, Hassel, Water, Savana, Inner Brass, Outer Brass, Hans Lollik, Little Hans Lollik, Great Saint James, Little Saint James, and Capella Islands, Thatch Cay and adjacent islets and cays; the District of Saint Croix, comprising Saint Croix and Buck Islands and adjacent islets and cays; and the District of Saint John, comprising Saint John and Flanagan Islands, Grass, Mingo, Lovango, and Congo cays and adjacent islets and cays. Two senators shall be elected by the qualified electors of the District of Saint Thomas; two senators shall be elected by the qualified electors of the District of Saint Croix; and one senator shall be elected by the qualified electors of the District of Saint John. The other six senators shall be senators at large and shall be elected by the qualified electors of the Virgin Islands from the Virgin Islands as a whole: Provided, That in the election of senators at large, each elector shall be entitled to vote for two candidates, and the candidates receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared elected up to the number to be elected at that election. The order of names upon the ballot for each office shall be determined by lot among the candidates : Provided, That the Government Secretary or his designee is authorized to draw for a candidate who does not appear in person, or by authorized representative, at the drawing of lots.
Mr. ABBOTT. By way of making the record complete at this point, it might be well to observe, as the members know, that prior to the 1954 organic act the legislative power in the Virgin Islands was vested in three unicameral legislative bodies--the Municipal Council of St. Croix, where provision was made for 9 members; the Municipal Council of St. Thomas-St. John, to be composed of 8 members; and, in turn, the third unicameral body constituted by joint session of the two municipal councils and known as the legislative assembly.
Under the 1954 organic act there was again established a unicameral legislature, which provided for 11 members to be known as senators, with the islands divided into 3 legislative districts.
The apportionment of seats in those legislative districts, as I am sure our witnesses and members are aware was this: 2 senators from the District of St. Thomas; 2 from the District of St. Croix; 1 fron. the District of St. John; and 6 elected as senators at large.
It was provided that in election of senators at large each qualified elector in the Virgin Islands was entitled to vote for 2 candidates, with the 6 candidates receiving the highest vote to be declared elected.
It was further provided the order of names on the ballot for each office would be determined by lot among the candidates, with the Government secretary or his designee to draw in the absence of a candidate or, in turn, the candidate's designee.
Five measures which would amend section 5 were introduced in the 84th Congress.
Briefly, as indicated from the print the members have before them, these measures would provide for an 11-member senate, unicameral as at present; would retain the 3 existing legislative districts, but would reapportion the seats by providing for 4 senators from the District of St. Thomas, as against 2 under the existing act; 4 from St. Croix, as against 2 under the present act; 1 senator from the District of St. John, as is presently provided; and then, reflecting the other changes, only 2 senators would be elected at large, as against the present provision for 6 elected at large.
Now if we can proceed with the witnesses, I believe with the exception of the Governor.
I believe you stated, Governor, you had no observation on this particular provision.
Governor GORDON. Not unless I am asked for specific ones.
Governor GORDON. No; I have changed my mind and made other arrangements. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hill. Basically there were three points here. I will start with the simplest one.
In subsection 5 (a) a one-house legislature is created, but in section 5 (b) we find "senators," the representatives being termed as "senators." It seems to us in a one-house legislature they ought to be called representatives. It is just a point there.
The second point is apportionment of the members of the legislature. The Unity Party is in favor of the proposed amendment made here for