A Climate of Certainty i The Free Vote: Halting ‘Chaos’ Austin Getting the vote is now a matter of filling in blanks on a simple form, in some cases a postage-due card, which then is mailed to the county tax assessor-collector, or handed to him or his deputy. It is free, and, although certain old barriers between the citizen and the vote have been retained in the election code \(and, apparently, cercould, in the next two weeks, multiplied by 50,000 \(as Gov. John Connally’s Secretary as the political force into being before the party primaries are held in May. At this writing, more or less 4,000,000 Texans are eligible to vote, but unregistered in this year’s elections because they did not pay the $1.50 or the $1.75 for the Texas poll tax which the three-judge federal court declared unconstitutional last month. Approximately 2,000,000 paid the tax this year \(and have automatically been retained as eligible THE COVER photograph was taken in El Paso by Bill Bridges of Texas, and now Los Angeles. 2 The Texas Observer hopes to add would bring the figure closer to the 3,000,000 who were qualified to vote in 1964, the presidential year. The registrants labor seeks out are most likely to include many persons who never have voted before, because, to them, the $1.50 or $1.75 was a matter of the family’s meal, or having enough for a pair of shoes, or the car payment, or the rent, or some Saturday night beer. For the poor, November is a long way from January. “We’ve contacted most of our people and told them to make appointments with the tax assessor-collector in their county,” Roy Evans, state secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said last week. “We set the goal at one quarter of the number not registered. One million is a lot of people, but four million is a whole lot more.” Evans said that the 50,000 new voters Crawford Martin, the Secretary of State, predicted would register could be found in Harris County alone, although Harris, Bexar, and Nueces were three counties where labor’s forces appeared to be encountering early problems in planning their registration drives. The problem in each of those instances is of the county assessorcollector, whose role in registration was increased under the act sold so swiftly and cleanly by the statehouse forces of Connally in the legislature’s special session, just over. “The county assessor can be cooperative in having deputies, or not,” Evans said, adding that if each of the 254 assessorcollectors in the state chose to order voters to register on a form valid only in that assessor’s county, a statewide registration effort, such as labor’s, would be an even tougher battle. In the special’ session the fight supposedly was to be between Connally’s forces, seeking a provisional act to prevent “chaos” and to match the existing registration provisions of the Texas Election Code as closely as possible, and those few who stood up for the system of permanent voter registration with automatic re-registration by votingthe system used in 44 of the 50 states, including some in the deepest South, and endorsed by such groups as the League of Women Voters and the AFL-CIO. But as soon as the administration’s true intentions became public, the moderate-liberal contingent saw that the argument was not over permanent versus annual registration, but over an annual registration system as open as the old poll tax laws persought to prevent the registration in blocs or singly of many whom the current administration and its predecessors never have had to answer tothe poor, the Negroes, the Latin-Americans. Here are the major provisions of the administration bill: THE TEXAS OBSERVER Texas Observer Co., Ltd. 1966 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South 60th YEAR ESTABLISHED 1906 Vol. 58, No. 3 7c Vl aP Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorported the State Week and Austin ForumAdvocate. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Editor and General Manager, Ronnie Dugger. Farther, Mrs. R. D. Randolph. Associate Editor, Larry Lee. Business Manager, Sarah Payne. Contributing Editors, Elroy Bode, Bill Brammer, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, Roger Shattuck, Robert Sherrill, Dan Strawn, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. Staff Artist, Charles Erickson. Contributing Photographer, Russell Lee. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them, because this is a journal of free March 4, 1966 voices. The Observer publishes articles, essays, and creative work of the shorter forms having to do in various ways with this area. The pay depends; at present it is token. Unsolicited manuscripts must be accompanied by return postage. The Observer is published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $6.00 a year; two years, $11.00; three years, $15.00. Foreign rates on request. Single copies 25c; prices for ten or more for students, or bulk orders, on request. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin 5, Texas Telephone GR 7-0746. Change of Address: Please give old and new address and allow three weeks. Subscription Representatives: Austin, Mrs. Helen C. Spear, 2615 Pecos, HO 5-1805; Dallas, Mrs. Cordye Hall, 5835 Ellsworth, TA 1-1205; Denton, Fred Lusk, Box 8134 NTS; Fort Worth, Dolores Jacobsen, 3025 Greene Ave., WA 4-9655; Houston, Mrs. Shirley Jay, 10306 Clifford Dr., PA 3-8682; Huntsville, Jessie L. Murphree, Box 2284 SHS; Lubbock, Doris Blaisdell, 2515 24th St.; Midland, Eva Dennis, 4306 Douglas, OX 42825; Odessa, Enid Turner, 1706 Glenwood, EM 6-2269; Rio Grande Valley, Mrs. Jack Butler, 601 Houston, McAllen, MU 6-5675; San Antonio, .Mrs. Mae B. Tuggle, 531 Elmhurst, TA. 6-3583; Cambridge, Mass., Victor Emanuel, 33 Aberdeen Ave., Apt. 3A. Free Registration In accordance with the federal district court ruling and unless and until it is overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States, the right to vote in Texas carries no fee or tax. The state will carry the cost of registering the voters by paying the county 25c for each voter signed up. The October-January registration period was retained. The Registrar This is the county tax assessor-collector who always has done the job, but who now is designated “registrar” in a new, separate section of the election code. The new law notes that he can act through a deputy or deputies. The Deputies The assessor-collector may have as many deputies as he “deems necessary” and must designate “places customarily open to the public” for them to work. In every city, except a county seat, with 10,000 or more persons, the assessor-collector must name at least one deputy to work in the month of January, taking the applications at “a
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