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Recommendation No. 2
Therefore, the Commission recommends that the Congress require that all State registration and voting records shall be public records and must be preserved for a period of 5 years, during which time they shall be subject to public inspection, providing only that all care be taken to preserve the secrecy of the ballot.
NON-FUNCTIONING OF REGISTRARS
Complaints were frequently made that State officials charged with responsibility to register qualified persons as electors evaded this responsibility, in the case of persons of a particular race or color, by inaction. Such practices are beyond the effective reach of the present remedial provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Specifically, the Commission found that boards of registrars in both Bullock and Macon Counties in Alabama frequently did not function as boards to register Negro applicants on scheduled dates for registration. Furthermore, in these same two counties, on several different occasions, one or more members of such boards-always in sufficient numbers to preclude the existence of the "majority" required for approval of registration-resigned their posts. And, further, State officials responsible for appointing members of boards of registrars repeatedly have delayed such appointments when boards became inoperative through resignation.
The Commission finds that the lack of an affirmative duty to constitute boards of registrars, or failure to discharge or enforce such duty under State law, and the failure of such boards to function on particular occasion or for long periods of time, or to restrict periods of function to such limited periods of time as to make it impossible for most citizens to register, are devices by which the right to vote is denied to citizens of the United States by reason of their race or color. It further finds that such failure to act is arbitrary, capricious, and without legal cause or justification.
Recommendation No. 3
Therefore, the Commission recommends that part IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (42 U.S.C. 1971) shall be amended by insertion of the following paragraph after the first paragraph in section 1971 (b):
Nor shall any person or group of persons, under color of State law, arbitrarily and without legal justification or cause, act, or being under duty to act, fail to act, in such manner as to deprive or threaten to deprive any individual or group of
individuals of the opportunity to register, vote and have that vote counted for any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, presidential elector, Member of the Senate, or Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate or Commissioner for the Territories or possessions, at any general, special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any such candidate.
REFUSAL OF WITNESSES TO TESTIFY
In the course of conducting voting hearings in Montgomery, Ala., in December 1958, the Commission was impressed with the fact that its purposes were not fully realized because of the divided authority for compelling the production of registration records. The Commission can subpena such records but the initiative rests with the Attorney General to petition the court to order a contumacious witness to comply with a Commission subpena. Such divided responsibility is unusual. These situations require rapid, coordinated action and communication. Both are difficult to achieve when there is dual responsibility and operation.
The Commission finds that the necessity for securing the aid and cooperation of a separate agency of the Federal Government in order to discharge the Commission's responsibilities under law is a needlessly cumbersome procedure. It is not a sound system of administration. Full and effective implementation of Commission policy in the discharge of Commission responsibilities under law requires full and exclusive control of any necessary resort to the courts by the Commission itself.
Recommendation No. 4
Therefore, the Commission recommends that in cases of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpena issued by the Commission on Civil Rights (under sec. 105 (f) of the Civil Rights Act of 1957) for the attendance and testimony of witnesses or the production of written or other matter, the Commission should be empowered to apply directly to the appropriate United States district court for an order enforcing such subpena.
APPOINTMENT OF TEMPORARY FEDERAL REGISTRARS
The Commission has investigated sworn complaints of denials of the right to vote by reason of color or race in eight States. In two States where it determined to hold formal hearings, Alabama and
Louisiana, its efforts to secure all relevant facts were met with open resistance by State officials. Nevertheless, on the basis of the testimony of witnesses and the examination of the registration records that were made available in Alabama, and through field investigation in other States, the Commission found that a substantial number of Negroes are being denied their right to vote. The infringement of this right is usually accomplished through discriminatory application and administration of State registration laws.
But discriminatory registration is not the only problem. The Commission also found instances in which there was no registration board in existence, or none capable of functioning lawfully. In all such cases, the majority of the electorate already registered were white persons.
For one example, the members of the Macon County (Ala.) Board of Registrars resigned after this Commission's Alabama hearing. At the hearing, 25 Macon County Negroes had testified that the board had unlawfully refused to register them. Invited to answer these charges, the Macon County registrars had refused to testify. But an injunction suit against the board to compel registration of 17 of the hearing witnesses and other apparently qualified Negroes, brought by the U.S. Attorney General under the new provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, was dismissed for lack of anyone to sue. Subsequently, new appointees to the Macon County board were named in July 1959. They refused to serve. Their reason, according to a United Press International report, was "the pressure for Negro registration" and "fear of being 'hounded' by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission."
The two other suits brought by the Attorney General under the same act had not at this writing resulted in a single registration. The suit in Georgia had been dismissed and was on appeal; the one in Louisiana was pending.
In short, no one had yet been registered through the civil remedies of the 1957 act.
Class suits on behalf of a number of Negroes to obtain registration have rarely been successful. The courts have inclined to the view that these suits are of an individual nature, with the result that a vast number of suits may be necessary.
The delays inherent in litigation, and the real possibility that in the end litigation will prove fruitless because the registrars have resigned, make necessary further remedial action by Congress if many qualified citizens are not to be denied their constitutional right to vote in the 1960 elections.
The Commission finds that substantial numbers of citizens qualified to vote under State registration and election laws are being denied the right to register, and thus the right to vote, by reason of their race or color. It finds that the existing remedies under the Civil Rights Act of 1957 are insufficient to secure and protect the right to vote of such citizens. It further finds that some direct procedure for temporary Federal registration for Federal elections is required if these citizens are not to be denied their right to register and vote in forthcoming national elections. Some method must be found by which a Federal officer is empowered to register voters for Federal elections who are qualified under State registration laws but are unable to register.
Such a temporary Federal registrar should serve only until local officials are prepared to register voters without discrimination. The temporary Federal registrar should be an individual located in the area involved, such as the Postmaster, U.S. Attorney, or Clerk of the Federal District Court. The fact-finding responsibilities to determine whether reasonable grounds exist to believe that the right to vote is being denied could be discharged by the Commission on Civil Rights, if extended. Because of the importance of the matter, such a temporary Federal registrar should be appointed directly by the President of the United States.
Recommendation No. 5
Therefore, the Commission recommends that, upon receipt by the President of the United States of sworn affidavits by nine or more individuals from any district, county, parish, or other political subdivision of a State, alleging that the affiants have unsuccessfully attempted to register with the duly constituted State registration office, and that the affiants believe themselves qualified under State law to be electors, but have been denied the right to register because of race, color, religion, or national origin, the President shall refer such affidavits to the Commission on Civil Rights, if extended.
A. The Commission shall
1. Investigate the validity of the allegations.
2. Dismiss such affidavits as prove, on investigation, to be unfounded.
3. Certify any and all well-founded affidavits to the President and to such temporary registrar as he may designate.
B. The President upon such certification shall designate an existing Federal officer or employee in the area from which complaints are received, to act as a temporary registrar.
C. Such registrar-designate shall administer the State qualification laws and issue to all individuals found qualified registration certifi
cates which shall entitle them to vote for any candidate for the Federal offices of President, Vice President, presidential elector, Members of the Senate or Members of the House of Representatives, Delegates or Commissioners for the Territories or possessions, in any general, special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any such candidate.
D. The registrar-designate shall certify to the responsible State registration officials the names and fact of registration of all persons registered by him. Such certification shall permit all such registrants to participate in Federal elections previously enumerated.
E. Jurisdiction shall be retained until such time as the President determines that the presence of the appointed registrar is no longer necessary.
DISSENT BY COMMISSIONER BATTLE
I concur in the proposition that all properly qualified American citizens should have the right to vote but I believe the present laws are sufficient to protect that right and I disagree with the proposal for the appointment of a Federal Registrar which would place in the hands of the Federal Government a vital part of the election process so jealously guarded and carefully reserved to the States by the Founding Fathers.