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I am of the opinion—and I am sure it is also the opinion of the Democratic Party in the Virgin Islands——to now remove it and bring it back to what it was formerly would do more harm than good, and I recommend that it remain as it is.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you.
Mr. LAWAETZ. If I may, I would like to back the opinion of Mr. Rohlson, because I know of many cases in the islands here where parents had had no opportunity to learn the English language and have sent their sons out to die under the American flag in Korea. You are not required to know the language to be able to vote to represent your country there. I feel that an American citizen, regardless of whether he knows the English language, should have such right to vote.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you.
Mr. MERWIN. I share with all citizens of the Virgin Islands and all United States citizens the aspiration for greater rights for all people. I think that we are today seeking to achieve increased civil and political rights for all of the people of the Virgin Islands in the organic act, and I think it would be very unsound, ridiculous in a sense, to be seeking for the advancement of the political rights of all of our people while at the same time asking you to retrogress in respect to the rights of a minority group in the Virgin Islands. I think there is so much inconsistency that it bears very little further argument one way or the other.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I might say, in our own State of New York our two major parties have chairmen in charge of various language divisions, and we have a great many political posters which are printed in languages other than English. I do not think New York is unique in that, although we have more probably than most. But in many States you have small Scandinavian groups that went out and more or less clung together, and the older people did not learn the English language. I do not think anyone would suggest they are not and have not been good citizens.
Mr. JOSEPH. May I make a further comment?
be going otherwise, that I believe that the right should be given to the Virgin Islands to decide, as it was mentioned here a little while ago concerning the conscription age in States rights, and I base my argument similarly. I would like the committee to understand that.
Mr. O'BRIEN. We do. I think Mr. Abbott made it very clear, assuming you wrote your own constitution, it would be subject to approval by Congress. Is that correct, Mr. Abbott? Mr. ABBOTT. It is.
Mr. O'BRIEN. And I doubt very much if Congress would approve the constitution which did not follow the mandate that it be along democratic lines. I think that is one of the democratic lines they had in mind when the wrote the Constitution itself.
Mr. ABBOTT. You have commented several times on the age question. Is it your understanding that Congress has, on its own, prohibited enactment of legislation which would give the franchise to 18-yearolds?
Mr. JOSEPH. No, but it has passed that right on to the States, that the State has that right.
Mr. ABBOTT. Then could not the Virgin Islands have the same right? Mr. JOSEPH. Age of conscription? Mr. ABBOTT. Of voting.
Mr. JOSEPH. Yes, but the Virgin Islands ought to have that same right to determine the language. That does not necessarily mean the Virgin Islands would put language as a barrier.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think you are asking for a right which would be denied to any of the States.
Mr. HODGE. May I make an observation?
Mr. HODGE. There are two questions here. On the question of voting, I am not speaking of language barrier because that has been accepted, I think, by the majority of our residents and has been working out very nicely. I think the Puerto Rican people have taken an active part in the functions of our Government in casting their vote and whatnot. But the question that came about as to the question of voting, the act does have a restriction which says 21 years.
Mr. ABBOTT. But I am saying, did not the legislative assembly draft it? I believe each of the drafts received by the Congress in 1954 also shows 21.
Mr. HODGE. That is right.
Mr. ABBOTT. If there are no other comments, we will proceed to that portion devoted to the legislative branch, which brings us immediately to section 5.
(Sec. 5 follows:)
SEC. 5. (a) The legislative power and authority of the Virgin Islands shall be vested in a legislature, consisting 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 candidate 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. As members are aware, and the panel members present, under the 1936 organic act the two councils, one at St. Croix, the other at St. Thomas-St. John, constituted the governing body when convened jointly as the legislative assembly of the Virgin Islands. Under the 1954 organic act a single unicameral body, the legislature, was established, with provision made for 11 members to be known as senators, with the islands divided into 3 legislative districts.
On the apportionment of those 11 senators, 2 are elected from the district of St. Thomas; 2 from St. Croix; 1 from the district of St. John; and 6 are elected as senators at large. Provision is made for the election of senators at large, with each elector entitled to vote for two candidates, and, of course, the candidates receiving the highest number of votes declared elected.
The order of names on the ballot for each office is prescribed to be determined by lot among the candidates, and the government secretary or his designee is to drawn in the absence of a candidate or his designee.
Five measures introduced in the 84th Congress would amend section 5 (b) dealing with apportionment; would continue to provide for an 11-member senate as at present; would retain the existing 3 legislative districts; but would reapportion the seats by providing for 4 senators from the district of St. Thomas, as against 2 presently; 4 senators from the district of St. Croix as against 2 presently; and 1 senator from the district of St. John, just as is now provided; and 2 senators to be elected at large as against 6 senators presently elected at large.
Beginning with the left-hand panel member, Senator Hodge, do you have
any comments? Mr. HODGE. I would like to deal with the practicability of that section as to what has happened 2 years ago, the results of the general election.
I should point out that at that time St. Croix had naturally elected two Senators on the at-large basis. We elected two Senators at large, Senator Merwin and myself. I won by four votes in that election.
The matters of his campaign do not matter. At that time I had the question of trying to sell the organic act to the people of the Virgin Islands, why we should adopt it. That affected my campaign terrifically.
But what I wish to point out is that if we had 4 members from the district of St. Croix and 4 members from the district of St. Thomas and 1 member from the district of St. John, it guarantees each island more votes regardless of the at-large basis, more votes in the legislature.
On the question of the six at large, there is no guaranty that either of the islands will get members at large. On the district basis, you know St. Croix, regardless of the results of the election, goes to the legislature with 4 representatives; you know that St. Thomas goes with 4 representatives; you know that St. John goes with 1 representative.
On the question of the 2 members at large, 1 may come from my island or 2 may come from any one of the major islands.
Why I particularly favor the question of 4 for the district is the guaranty the island will have a certain number of representatives in the 11-man legislature.
That is one of the changes we felt should be put into force and effect.
Mr. ABBOTT. Was it your understanding, senator, that in so apportioning members, the Congress in considering this had in mind that here there was being created a 1-house, a unicameral legislature. Under your bicameral, your 2-house system, which is used in most of the States, with one exception-under the Constitution, of course, at your Federal level you have your direct representation through Senators, two each from each State, and, of course, they are at large. You have your proportionate representation in the persons of the 435 Members, 4 of whom are here in the House.
An examination of the 6 at large in the unicameral legislature here and the 5 from fixed districts perhaps reflects better than anything else the desire to achieve somewhat the same balance in the Virgin Islands.
Mr. HODGE. Yes.
Mr. ABBOTT. You have a population on St. Croix, do you not, which is slightly less than St. Thomas?
Mr. HODGE. Yes.
Mr. ABBOTT. Fourteen thousand to 13,000, roughly. Something in that neighborhood!
Mr. HODGE. Yes.
Mr. ABBOTT. How many senators do you, in fact, have from St. Croix in the new legislature coming up!
Mr. HODGE. I would say we have four senators. It is a question. I would say we have four senators from St. Croix.
Mr. ABBOTT. Is there some mental reservation? You have five bodies going to St. Thomas from St. Croix ?
Mr. HODGE. No. As a matter of fact, I don't know on that one. I said there may be a difference of opinion there. I said we have 4, 2 from the district and 2 at-large.
Mr. ABBOTT. Senator Lawaetz. Had you completed, Senator Hodge?
Mr. Honge. I said there would be a difference of opinion. My contention is St. Croix has only four representatives in the legislature from St. Croix.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Is it true there are five residents of St. Croix who will be in the new legislature?
Mr. HODGE. We have a temporary resident who will be. No reflection on the gentleman. It just happens the circumstances and his work caused him to move.
Mr. O'BRIEN. What happens in such a case, if you got this nicely balanced and everybody moves?
Mr. HODGE. I think this: If the people in the Virgin Islands, if we were not separated so far apart-there are so many people in St. Croix who do not know people in St. Thomas and vice versa—that this question of six senators at-large would work nicely. I think
there would be no question if we were like the island of Guam, if all senators were elected at-large.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Would not there be more shooting in the dark actually that way, with that lack of interisland knowledge ?
Mr. HODGE. That is one of the problems that we are trying to work out, sir. I think that if we take a specific case, the island of Guam, where you have 1 island, where you have 21 members of your legislature all at-large, there is no problem there. On St. Thomas and St. Croix there are certain differences. The economy is different. One is commercial, one is basically agricultural, and that constitutes some question.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Is not that true in many of our States? Is not that true even though you may not be separated by a body of water?
Mr. HODGE. You have different interests.
The reason I am going into this, you can understand the difficulty of the committee. Only one member of our committee has ever served in a unicameral legislature. The rest of us have not had that experience. We are trying to understand why there should be this controversy among the islands and why it is any different or more exaggerated than it would be, say, in New York State with New York City versus upstate. They are like two different States. They think differently.
Mr. HODGE. I think in recent years that barrier has been broken down very well.
Right on that point-I am not getting away from the particular section under discussion-our basic problem here is I don't think so much the legislative setup as it is the administrative setup.
The reason why most people in the island here want a majority of people from St. Croix represented in the legislature is because during the last 21/2 years this island has suffered terrifically because of, I would say, not lack of representation in the legislature, but the manner in which the administration has handled its affairs regarding this island.
I mean to say everything is moving and the moneys are available, but nothing is being done on the island of St. Croix. Our government here has been completely removed, and there is no person in authority with the proper authority to do the things that should be done.
Dr. MILLER. At that point, Mr. Hodge—you had a new hospital built here and some new schools?
Mr. HODGE. Oh, yes.
Dr. MILLER. All built since I was here a few years ago. You say nothing has been done. I see great progress.
Mr. HODGE. I did not mean in that way, Dr. Miller. The only thing we have done here to date is the construction-rather, about 6 months ago contracts were let on the construction of a new school in Frederiksted and construction of a school at Kingshill. Other than that we have had no progress made in St. Croix regarding roads, regarding maintenance, or building. As a matter of fact, I would say, “regarding nothing." Those contracts were let, as you know, as a result of representations that were made to your committee and members of your committee to do something about getting something done on St. Croix. That is one of the problems.