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Dr. MILLER. Off the record. (Discussion off the record.)
Mr. O'BRIEN. As I said, it is a rather perplexing problem for us because there is so much internal dickering involved. It is rather familiar to me because from timo to time we have a bill in our State legislature to make New York City a 49th State so it can separate itself from what it considers entirely different thinking upstate. So it is not a new problem, and I do not think we are going to get very much further with it by belaboring it at this point. I think the committee has a pretty good grasp of the problem at this point. However, I do not want to shut off any witness, but I think you understand.
Mr. HODGE. Mr. Chairman, as far as I am concerned, I have gone on record in Washington and here on these questions from time to time, and my statement is available 2 or 3 times on the record.
The only thing I am concerned about is if you have any questions regarding the statement that I made to the committee.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think, from listening to many members of the committee, there seems to be a feeling that a good many of these problems would be resolved when you arrive at a point where you have a greater party responsibility in the islands—that sometimes loyalty to a party will jump across 40 miles of water. I am not advocating that, but I think it is almost going to have to await that day.
Mr. HODGE. It is difficult to have party government under this setup we have. You have to have a complete sweep of one party or the other to have an absolute majority in the legislature. Your restriction o vfoting for 2 only, and 2 members from the district of St. Croix, 2 from St. Thomas, and 1 from St. John, you have a total of 7 people
Mr. ABBOTT. Senator, would you say that the record made on the 1954 Organic Act reflects more agreement—and I mean from Virgin Islanders with the provisions as they are presently found than disagreement?
Mr. Honge. I would say more disagreement.
Mr. ABBOTT. That you believe there was more disagreement with these provisions than there was agreement?
Mr. HODGE. That is right.
Mr. LAWAETZ. May I ask, was it the intent to leave the voting for each individual as at present, to have only the right to vote for 2 district members, or would you now have the right to vote for all 4 of them?
Mr. ABBOTT. As the proposed amendment is written, the voters in the district of St. Thomas would vote for 4 senators, the voters in St. Croix for 4 senators directly, and 2 senators elected at large islandwide, according to the provision that has been suggested. Everybody, in other words, would be voting in St. Croix for 6 senators, 2 at large and 4 in the district.
Mr. LAWAETZ. I think it should remain just as it is. I believe the last election showed that if any specific party had powers to join the islands together we would have had 8 men from 1 party in the legislature today.
I know the instance of the Unity Party for one party. The Unity Party in St. Thomas put in four men. If this was the party that this island wanted they could have put in four, too. You have the
Democratic Party that was able to sponsor a man in St. Thomas, sponsored 1 in St. John, and 2 here, and they got their 4 men in.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Let me get that straight. The Democratic Party elected 4 men from 3 different islands?
Mr. LAWAETZ. That is right, and we had a split vote.
Mr. O'BRIEN. If the other members of the committee will forgive me, it seems to me the Democratic Party may be making more progress toward party responsibility than some of the others in the Virgin Islands. (Laughter.]
Mr. LAWAETZ. If I may say, the one member Senator Hodge is referring to, she practically got a half and half vote. That was Senator Millan, and she picked up over 300 votes from this island, which showed the Democrats were not considering island issues but were considering the party issue.
You had the same thing with the Democrats in St. John. Their candidate ran as a Democrat, the president of the Democratic Party in St. John, and he got about 90 percent of the vote, and 9912 percent of the vote at large went to the Democratic candidates running at large.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Can you see the difficulties that the Congress might be in? If we changed this formula to give St. Croix a larger place in the sun and it tipped the balance too much in favor of St. Croix, then we might have a group coming to Washington suggesting that we change it again and give St. Thomas a better break. We would be constantly moving the formula in various directions.
It is a perplexing problem, but I would like to say this: As I said, I do not want to hurry the witnesses, but I think that the committee has a pretty full picture of this situation. I am not suggesting that we got it at the hearings in St. Thomas. It is a combination of what we have heard in many places, including testimony in Washington. I do not think that the deliberations of the committee would be helped too much by lingering much further on this particular point.
Mr. MERWIN. I do not want to linger, but I do feel that I have an observation which could be helpful to the committee.
I believe that the present formula represents a real tribute to the deep insight of the late Senator Butler into the real problems of the Virgin Islands. I honestly believe that he looked far ahead. If
vere to change the present formula to what has been suggested here—4, 4, 2, and 1-it would definitely be retrogressive, because this formula that we have now looked forward to the day where there might be a considerable difference in population between the two islands. I think that where the voters are given an opportunity to select a majority of their representatives from the islands as a whole that is definitely forward-looking legislation. If we were to have it 4, 4, 2, and 1 and St. Croix, for example, were to have a population of 20,000 in the next 10 years as against 13,000 or 14,000 for St. Thomas, our 20,000 people here would only have the right to the same 4 representatives as those in St. Thomas.
The formula that now exists is definitely far advanced to any such thing as is proposed. I think it assures minority representation, it assures representation from various districts in the Virgin Islands, and I think it is a very farsighted thing.
I feel that the main proponents of the change see an opportunity in this formula they have here to get their six people in from St. Thomas, and every time St. Thomas would have a definite control and a certain political party would have a definite control.
I think that the proposed amendment by those most ardently in favor of it is just a shortsighted attempt to retain control by a certain political party, and nothing more.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Young.
Mr. YOUNG. I would like to mention that so far no one has stated that our problem is to try to unify the islands and not to keep them separate as St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. So let's not disturb the present status. It adequately covers our legislative needs, and the proposal is primarily intended to protect one island as against the other. That is not what we want. We want the whole island area to be the Virgin Islands and stay that way. Therefore, I say we should not change the present formula.
Mr. ABBOTT. Mr. Rohlson.
Mr. ROHLSON. I hate to belabor the issue, but I would like to ask for one change on that section which I feel will help to unify the islands, which I feel will help to bring about the party system and party responsibility in our politics.
The Democrats are organized in all 3 islands. We put up 6 candidates. We elected 4. Those candidates were elected throughout the Virgin Islands. They were elected by the support of all 3 islands and not any particular island. We now have 4 senators-elect.
Yet, if this remains as it is, it is not going to give any party a chance to control or assume party responsibility in the legislature. We are going to have a lot of tugging and pulling as we have had in the past, and we are going to get nowhere very fast.
I want to recommend there be four candidates at large instead of two. Just that one change. I am going to ask the committee if they would consider that seriously in light of what I said, because I feel that will help us to unify the islands more and bring about a greater sense of party responsibility to the people of the Virgin Islands for their politics instead of the individual system, the independent system and a few party members here and there.
Mr. O'BRIEN. You would have it 3-3-1-4? Mr. ROHLSON. That is right; 3–3–1-4. Mr. ABBOTT. May I make an observation, and some of these high school students can correct me.
As near as I can figure, there are 32,020,800 combinations of 11 different seats. I say it not frivolously. But there are obviously many combinations you can have in the arrangement of seats when you have 11 of them.
Mr. ROHLSON. Pardon me. I would like to correct the statement just made. I am interested in the same setup of the legislature except, instead of voting for 2 candidates at large, each elector will be able to vote for 4, and the 6 highest would be seated, and 2 from the district of St. Croix would remain the same, 2 from the district of St. Thomas, and 1 from St. John.
Mr. O'BRIEN. You would continue the six at large but enlarge the voting rights?
Mr. ROHLSON. That is right. I feel that will give us a lot more unification. I will not go along with 4 from St. Croix and 4 from St. Thomas because then we try to split the islands apart more than to bring them together.
Mr. HODGE. May I make one observation at that point on Mr. Rohlson's suggestion for voting for four at large. It also guarantees minority representation because 6 people would be seated for which electors can only vote for 4.
Mr. MERWIN. May I make one
Dr. MILLER. I submit these men have made several observations. I suggest we get on to some of the other sections of the bill. We are just dancing around in circles here and not getting any place at all in the program for the afternoon.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think the point is well taken. Again I want to assure the witnesses it is not we are brushing it under the rug, it is just that the committee feels it has had saturation both in verbiage and in our ability to absorb.
Mr. JOSEPH. Mr. Chairman, I would like to waive my reading on this subject, but I would like to ask a question. Why is it that the voter must be restricted ?
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, I object to the witness asking any questions.
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is not the proper procedure, to ask the members of the committee questions. If you want to make a statement or want to answer a question, all right, but we do have to follow certain procedures.
Mr. HODGE. Mr. Chairman, may I just make one statement on the question of the legislative setup?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Briefly.
Mr. HODGE. That is this: Whether we have 4 or 2 or 6, I think the committee is going to work out after giving the matter consideration. But I think your basic problem right now under our present setup regards what was the intent of the Congress with regard to confirmation of boards and commissions so far as the inherent powers of the legislature is concerned. How we construct the legislature, what is the pay, or how we fill a vacancy, that, as far as I am concerned, is unimportant because that is one of the changes the committee may consider. But right now one of the basic things I think your committee has to decide is: Was it the intent of the Congress to give the people of the Virgin Islands through inherent powers of the legislature the power to confirm boards and commissions or was it not?
During the panel here and St. Thomas I mentioned it and was told we would discuss it further in the act. But it does not appear any place except in the reorganization of government, which says the Governor shall have the power to reorganize without legislative interference for 1 year. But that year has passed, and the question has come about.
Mr. ABBOTT. Are we on the section we are discussing now?
Mr. HODGE. I think on the question of the inherent powers of the legislature, in the legislative section generally. I think that is one of the things your committee ought to consider.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Perhaps we could summarize that. You would like this committee and Congress to consider the feasibility or desirability of enlarging the power of the legislature to confirm?
Mr. HODGE. No, Mr. Chairman. I believe the Congress intended for the legislature to confirm boards and commissions, but it does not say so in the law.
Mr. ABBOTT. Senator, I will resubmit that section 8 (a) deals with the scope of legislative powers. It was our hope we could proceed in order.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Supposing we defer that particular point until we get to section 8 (a), Senator, and then it will be perfectly in order for you to bring up that point.
Dr. MILLER. There are so many more sections in here far more important than the number of legislators I hope you will not spend any more time discussing it and we will get to the meat of the problem, because there are other problems that are important.
Mr. O'BRIEN. The gentleman is correct.
(Subsequently, Mr. Joseph submitted the following statement for consideration :)
Section 5 (b) The act in its present form calls for 2 senators for the District of St. Croix, 2 senators for the District of St. Thomas, 1 senator from the District of St. John and 6 senators-at-large, and further states that qualified voters in the Virgin Islands while permitted to vote for 2 senators in the district of their residence, may vote for only 2 senators-at-large. Voting for two (2) candidates only of the six at-large seats is contrary to American policy, and not in line with good democratic form of government. Democracy as we know it as was taught to us in our American schools, is a form of government ruled and governed by the people, and the only way to determine rule of the people is to accept the majority rule. Restricting us to certain votes individually for senators of that area when the number of senators to be seated for that particular area is more than the number that a qualified voter may vote for is unconstitutional. Article XV of the Constitution of March 30, 1870, section 1, states : “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 5 (b) of the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands has abridged that right of citizens. Therefore, any wording in the act must restore that right to us. If Congress decides on maintaining the number of senators elected from the various districts totaling 11 senators, every qualified voter must be entitled to vote for 2 from the district, and 6 atlarge. That would give each qualified voter a total of 8 votes except St. John with 7. Should Congress consider a total of 8 votes out of 11 seats, 7 votes for St. John, too encumbersome, then I suggest that each voter be entitled to 6 votes except in the case of St. John that would have 3 votes, as follows: 4 votes for the district and 2 at-large except in the case of St. John that would have 3 votes, 1 vote for district, and 2 at-large. The proposed changes would therefore read: 4 senators for the District of St. Thomas, 4 senators for the District of St. Croix, 1 senator for the District of St. John and 2 senators at large. Each qualified voter would have the right to vote for his district senators as well as the 2 at large senators. As a further suggestion the senate may consist of 13 senators voted upon as follows: 4 senators for the District of St. Thomas, 4 senators for the District of St. Croix, 1 senator for the District of St. John and 4 senators at large. Each qualified voter would have the right to vote for his district senators as well as the 4 at-large senators. Regardless of whatever the change may be, we as citizens of the United States demand that we be givn our full voting rights to vote for all senators from our districts, which would include voting for such number of senators from our particular subdistrict in the Virgin Islands and such number from the district of the Virgin Islands (at large).
SECTION 6 We have as of now finished with section 5, and we will proceed with section 6.
(Sec. 6 follows:)
SEC. 6. (a) The term of office of each member of the legislature shall be two years. The term of office of each member shall commence on the second Monday in April following his election: Provided, however, That the term of office of each member elected in November 1954 shall commence on the second Monday in January 1955 and shall continue until the second Monday in April 1957.