Representative Gerald Ford (R-MI)
September 16, 1969 from the Congressional Record.
Mr. Chairman, I hope all Members have taken the time to read this document. It was an outstanding group that worked on it. They represented the political spectrum from the far left to the far right.
In my judgment, it is a sound recommendation that we should follow.
The Committee on the Judiciary of the House, by an overwhelming vote, has in effect adopted the plan recommended by the American Bar Association study group.
We are also familiar with the wide range of organizations from all over the land that have endorsed the committee recommendation.
The question has been raised by some: What does the President of the United States recommend? I have in my hand the President’s message that came to the Congress February 20, 1969. Let me quote from that message if I might.
The President says:
'I have not abandoned my personal feeling, stated in October and November 1968, that the candidate who wins the most popular vote should become President.'
The President goes on to say, and again I quote:
'I have in the past supported the proportional plan of electoral reform. Under this plan the electoral vote of a State would be distributed among the candidates for President in proportion to the popular vote cast. But I am not wedded to the details of this plan or any other specific plan. I will support any plan that moves toward the following objectives: first, the abolition of individual electors; second, allocation to Presidential candidates of the electoral votes of each State and the District of Columbia in a manner that may more closely approximate the popular vote than does the present system; third, making a 40 percent electoral vote plurality sufficient to choose a President.'
Then he goes on, and again I quote:
'Next, I consider it necessary to make specific provisions for the eventuality that no presidential slate receives 40% or more of the electoral vote in the regular election. Such a situation, I believe, is best met by providing that a run-off election between the top two candidates shall be held within a specified time after the general election, victory going to the candidate who receives the largest popular vote.'
The net result is, in my judgment, the President of the United States endorses substantially – substantially – the recommendation of this committee of the House.
Let me make one other observation. I know there are some of the most conservative Members of this body on both sides of the aisle who are apprehensive about the direct election procedure. For the benefit of those who feel that way, who served in this body with Ed Gossett, they know very well he was one of the most able, and probably one of the most conservative, Members in the House of Representatives during his many terms of office. He was highly respected by Members on my side of the aisle, and I believe equally by those on the other side, whether they were conservative or liberal. Ed Gossett, who is now a practicing lawyer in Texas, was one of the members of the American Bar Association study group that recommended the ABA plan, which is the direct method of selecting the President of the United States. Any conservative can follow Ed Gossett’s recommendation.
Some Members in this body are apprehensive about the situation of confronting the small State, the small State in population. One of the distinguished members of this ABA task force was the Governor of a State with a relatively small population, Oklahoma. Gov. Henry Bellmon was on this group and Gov. Henry Bellmon wholeheartedly endorses the American Bar Association plan, which is the direct method of electing the President of the United States.
No one can challenge Henry Bellmon's dedication to Oklahoma or States of that size. Henry Bellmon believes after thorough analysis that this plan is in the best interests of the United States and does no harm to small States.
Now, Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that we are down to the final effort, because shortly we will vote as between the district plan and the direct election plan. It is my judgment that this is the real contest and the real ball game.
Mr. Chairman, the allegation is made that the other body will not accept a direct method of selecting a President. I cannot prejudge that. In the Senate there is strong sentiment for direct election, and there are views that are contrary. The allegation is made that the State legislatures will not approve the direct method or that there will be a sufficient number that will block ratification. I cannot judge that, either, although I think the evidence that has been accumulated, the polls, clearly points out that State legislatures could very well ratify the direct method of selecting the President. Senator ROBERT GRIFFIN, for one, conducted a survey which convinces me it is possible. I understand that the magazine The Nation’s Business conducted a survey of State legislatures and their judgment is based on this survey; namely, that a sufficient number of State legislatures will approve the direct method of selecting a President.
Mr. Chairman, let me conclude with this observation: We have a responsibility ourselves to do what at least two-thirds of the Members of this body believe is forward movement, constructive movement, and meritorious change. When you put on the scales the present system and each of the three alternatives, in my honest opinion, the scales weigh most heavily for the direct method.
I think everybody agrees, based on the Gallup poll and based on individual questionnaires sent out by Members on this side and on that side, that the public, when they are given the choice between the present system and the three alternatives, in every instance I have seen has overwhelmingly voted for the direct method of selecting a President. In some of the most conservative districts in this country represented by bona fide, legitimate, and dedicated conservatives, the polls show that the people, the people, want the direct method of selecting the President of the United States. I have yet to see a questionnaire to the contrary.
Now, my final point is this: I believe that we ought to pass the direct method of selecting the President of the United States. If we do not, it is my honest opinion that the people will be let down. If ratification fails, either by action in this body or in the other body or by action of the State legislatures, the people will be let down. I hope that the House of Representatives, which I think is the people's House, the people’s House will face up to the issue and will vote in accord with what the American people by every poll have indicated they want. The people's House has even a greater responsibility than the other body or the respective State legislatures. So when the vote comes today on the district vis-a-vis the direct method or on the motion to recommit, which I suspect will be the district plan, I hope that we reject others and support in the final analysis the direct method of selecting the President of the United States.