General Enoch H. Crowder to the Secretary of State
Sir: In response to the invitation, transmitted by the American Minister through your Department, extended me by the President of Cuba “to advise and give the Government in Cuba the benefit of my experience in suggesting such amendments to the election laws as will meet the needs of the present and future”, I have the honor to submit the following report:
I arrived in Havana March 18th, 1919, and commenced the investigation of the electoral administration with the advantage of an intimate knowledge of the existing electoral law derived from participation, as President of the Advisory Committee, in the framing of it and from supervising its initial application in the two elections held in the year 1908. During my investigation I was assisted by many of the eminent public men of Cuba and also by many prominent men in civil life without party affiliations. In the preparation of the Amendatory Act, copy of which is herewith enclosed and marked “Appendix A”,19 I was materially aided by a joint Parliamentary Committee which consisted of five senators and five representatives, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.
I have concluded that I can best present the general subject by first pointing out the agencies employed in the Electoral Administration and outlining the composition and duties of each. I shall follow this with a review of the various elections held from 1908 to 1918 inclusive, setting forth at some length the history of the biennial election of 1918 in Santa Clara Province, and then, by reference thereto, call attention to the conditions which existed in the five [Page 30] other provinces during the same electoral period; concluding by indicating the changes made upon my recommendation in the Electoral Code and related Acts of the Cuban Congress to safeguard, in so far as law can establish safeguards, the future electoral administration of Cuba.
Electoral Agencies—Composition and Duties of Each
The law promulgated by the United States Provisional Government of Cuba, upon the advice of the Advisory Commission, September 11, 1908, as amended by the Provisional Government in January of 1909, and as further amended by the Cuban Congress, committed the electoral administration to one Central, six Provincial, and one hundred and ten Municipal Boards, all permanent in character; and to two thousand two hundred and sixty-three College (precinct) Boards, temporary in character—that is, called into existence for the single purpose of conducting the elections at the various polling places and making the necessary returns. These boards have the territorial jurisdiction their names imply, the Central Board exercising the jurisdiction over the entire Republic, the six Provincial and the one hundred and ten Municipal Boards over the provinces and municipal districts to which they pertain, and the College Boards over the barrios and subdivisions thereof whose electoral lists have been certified to them by the corresponding Municipal Board. All these boards were linked together by an appellate procedure running from the lowest to the highest, with judicial review of their more important resolutions through appeals to the Courts. The offices of Presidents and members of all these boards and of their respective substitutes were honorary, gratuitous and obligatory (Art. 56). Attendance, except upon the part of substitutes duly warned by their principals that the latter will attend, and voting upon all matters submitted for resolution, were likewise obligatory (Art. 56).
More specifically, the composition and the important duties of the several electoral boards directly relating to the conduct of elections were as follows, commencing with the highest:
the central electoral board
Composition: This board consisted of five members, the composition being:
- 1 Ex-officio President, The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
- 1 Ex-officio member, the Senior Associate Justice of the Habana Audiencia,
- 1 Ex-officio member, a Titular Professor of the University of Habana, designated by its faculty,
- 2 Political members, designated by the two political parties casting the largest and next largest vote for Representatives in Congress at the immediately preceding general elections.
“Quo-warranto” proceedings, to pass upon the legality of the appointments of political members of the Central Board under Article 22, were required to be considered and decided by the ex-ofjieio members of said board.
Duties: The Administrative duties of the Central Electoral Board included:
- The issue of Election Proclamations for elections in which National officers were to be elected, or when questions of National interest were to be submitted ad referendum (Art. 32, Sec. I);
- The issue of printed instructions for the guidance of voters on election day in the matter of obtaining, marking, preparing and casting the official ballot (Art. 139);
- The issue, on its own motion or at the request of subordinate boards, of instructions and rules to facilitate the application of the Electoral Law (Art. 46);
- To furnish to Provincial and Municipal Boards blank electoral registers of all classes, blank poll-books, blank minute-books, blank oaths and affirmations, and all other forms provided; also official envelopes, printed copies of the Electoral Law, official stamps or seals, voting booths, guard rails and ballot boxes (Art. 38); and all models and special forms necessary in the execution of the Law (Art. 47);
- To make requisition upon the Secretary of Government for the police forces the board deems necessary to insure “the free exercise of the right of suffrage, the protection of election officials in the exercise of their duties, and the custody of election supplies and documents”; and suggest to the Secretary of Government instructions concerning the disposition on election day of the police forces which have not been requisitioned by the Board “with a view to conserving the free and unrestricted exercise of the right of suffrage under the Law “which the Secretary of Government must issue (Art. 160).
On the side of its appellate jurisdiction, the Central Board heard and determined:
- By quo-warranto proceeding, the right and authority of the President or Substitute-President of a Municipal Electoral Board, or any member, substitute member, or Secretary of any Municipal or Provincial Electoral Board, to discharge the duties of his office; and the ex-officio membership to hear and determine the qualifications of the political members of the Central Electoral Board (Art. 22). Decision final.
- Appeals against the resolutions of a Provincial Electoral Board sitting as a canvassing board (Art. 200), with authority to decree the nullity of elections (Art. 202). Decision appealable to the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court.
the provincial electoral board
Composition: The Provincial Electoral Board was composed of five members as follows:
- 1 Ex-officio President, The Presiding Justice of the Provincial Audiencia,
- 1 Ex-officio member, the Senior Judge First Instance of Provincial Capital,
- 1 Ex-officio member, a Titular Professor of the Provincial Institute of Secondary Instruction, designated by the faculty,
- 2 Political members, designated by the two political parties casting the largest and next largest votes for representatives in the Province at the last preceding election (Art. 18).
The appointment or designation of any of these members, except the Ex-officio President, could be questioned by quo-warranto proceeding brought before the Central Board at any time.
Duties: The jurisdiction of the Provincial Board was both original and appellate. The former embraced the following:
- To issue Proclamations of elections in which Provincial officers were to be elected, or questions of Provincial interest were to be submitted ad referendum (Art. 32, Sec. II);
- To keep a card register of the electors of the entire Province arranged alphabetically by Municipalities and Barrios, as a check on the Municipal Register (Art. 97). To receive and pass upon certificates of nomination for the Provincial and National elective offices, and upon those received from the Municipal Boards for the Municipal offices (Arts. 100–105). Appeals could be taken to the Civil Chamber of the Audiencia, whose decision was final (Art. 114). At a later meeting the Provincial Board, in accordance with what was decided by said Civil Chamber, formed the official ballot, a true copy of which must be posted on the bulletin board (Art. 115). To have printed and distributed the official and the sample ballots (Art. 118). To receive, direct from the college boards, returns as to all Provincial and National elective offices, and all other records of the college boards necessary to the canvass, packed, sealed and forwarded by said boards with all necessary safe-guards (Arts. 179–180). To canvass these returns, which must begin within two days following election day and terminate within a period of fifteen days, unless an extension of this period was granted by the Central Electoral Board after considering the cause of the delay. The canvass was conducted in the usual place of meeting of the boards and the official candidates and delegates of political parties were entitled to be present. The sealed packages or envelopes containing returns [Page 33] and other papers could be broken only in the presence of the electoral board, and after the condition of the covers and seals had been noted in the minutes (Arts. 186–7–8). To make a consolidated return for the entire Province and a return of candidates found to have been elected, both returns to be prepared in triplicate and signed by the President, Secretary and members of the board on every page under the certificate that the return is true and complete; one copy of each return being posted upon the bulletin board immediately, a second copy being forwarded to the Central Electoral Board and the third copy retained on file (Art. 195). To furnish, upon written request of any candidate, a certificate signed by the President and Secretary showing the consolidated vote for each candidate to the office for which the petitioner was a candidate (Art. 197). To declare the nullity of elections by reason of the number of excess ballots or other fraud (Art. 202). To receive and pass upon any exceptions taken to the procedure which any person present at the canvass might take (Art. 198). To allow appeals from its decisions as a canvassing board to the Central Electoral Board, which [with?] notice to the candidates of interest (Art. 200). To issue Certificates of Election to offices not affected by appeals, within three days following the expiration of the period for filing such appeals, and to offices that were affected by appeals within three days next following the receipt of the final decision rendered by the appellate board or court (Art. 206). To keep accurate minutes of all of its acts as a canvassing board.
On the side of its appellate jurisdiction, the Provincial Board heard and decided appeals:
- Against the resolutions of municipal boards, dividing or consolidating the barrios of the municipal district into electoral colleges (precincts), assigning electors thereto (the college registry list), and designating the polling places therein (Art. 53). Decision final.
- Against resolutions of the municipal boards appointing the President, two political members, watchers and clerks of each such college (Art. 53). Decision final.
- Against any resolution of the college electoral board respecting the scrutiny or canvass of votes within the college for provincial or national offices (Art. 202). Decision appealable to Central Electoral Board and thence to the Supreme Court.
- Against any resolution of the municipal board sitting as a canvassing board for municipal offices (Art. 200). Decision appealable to the Civil Chamber of the Audiencia (Art. 201).
the municipal electoral board
Composition: The Municipal Electoral Board was composed of three members as follows:
- 1 Ex-officio President, The Senior
Judge of the First Instance or Examination, if not required
to serve on the Provincial Board; if not available for this
reason—then the Correctional Judge of the Municipality;
failing both these sources, then the Law authorizes an [Page 34]
Appointive President, appointed by the President of the Provincial
Audiencia from among—
- The Judge, Ex-Judges or Substitute Judges of the Municipal Court, not identified with any political parties or independent groups;
- otherwise from among—
- Persons of the highest standing in the community not so identified.
- 2 Political members, appointed respectively by the two political members of the Provincial Electoral Board (Art. 19).
In the application of the Law about two-thirds (in Pinar del Rio Province precisely two-thirds) of the Presidents of the Municipal Boards—ten out of fifteen—have been appointive. The legality or fairness of appointments of the appointive Presidents or members of the Municipal Boards or their respective substitutes, or of its Secretary, may be called in question before the Central Electoral Board by quo-warranto proceeding filed at any time.
Duties: These embraced matters of registration, receiving and forwarding certificates of nomination for Municipal office, designation of colleges, appointment of personnel of college boards including watchers and clerks, selection and equipment of polling places in the several barrios and subdivisions thereof, distribution of the election supplies to college boards, canvass of the returns of municipal elections, and the issuance of certificates of election to municipal officers. The duties having most direct relation to the honesty and fairness of elections were, of course, those pertaining—(a) to registration, and—(b) to the canvass of returns, which will be explained more in detail. (Art. 55).
- Registration. The permanent Register was made up from the population census taken by the United States Provisional Government in 1907. The schedules used by the house-to-house enumerators were designed so as to reveal electoral qualifications. When the enumeration was complete, it was easy to list the electors of each municipality and its constituent barrios. When this was done, the result constituted the Municipal Permanent Register, with the names alphabetically arranged by barrios, a card register being made up at the same time for the Provincial Board, inclusive of the electors of the province, arranged by municipalities and barrios, so as to be a check on the Municipal Register. It is conceded by nearly everyone whom I have examined that the original permanent registers and card registers sent to the first Municipal and Provincial Electoral Boards were as nearly accurate as it was possible to make them. Since that date the Municipal Boards have had the duty of keeping the register up to date by making the necessary inclusions and exclusions therein. For this and other purposes they held quarterly meetings, on the first business day of January, April, July and [Page 35] October (Art. 85). Petitions for inclusion must be individual (Art. 79),—that is, no person has the right to apply for the registration of another as an elector (Art. 81), and must contain a statement of the age, race, nativity, conjugal status, occupation, residence, term of residence in the Province, Municipality and Barrio, respectively, ability to read and write, and possession of an academic or professional title (Art. 76). Residence for six months within the province, three [months within the] municipality, and one month within the Barrio immediately preceding the date of election is necessary, and must be established (Art. 78). It is also necessary that the petitioner shall specify where he was last registered, or that he has never theretofore been inscribed, and, in the case of prior registration, he must furnish certificates of exclusion from prior registry with the obligation in the case of a naturalized citizen, to furnish proof of naturalization (Art. 79). Petitions for inclusion and exclusion may be filed at any time, except during the last twenty-nine days preceding an election (Arts. 79–80), and were resolved at the quarterly meetings mentioned above (Art. 85). In addition these boards held meetings on the first Saturday following the issue of the Election Proclamation, and on each succeeding Saturday following the issue of the Election Proclamation for the purpose of acting on all pending applications (Art. 86), and six weeks prior to date of elections, met and remained in permanent session until this work was concluded (Art. 87). A provisional register was then made up with as many sections as there are barrios in the municipality, each barrio section being divided into two sub-sections, one of inclusion and the other of exclusion. On the fortieth day before the election, this provisional register must be posted on the bulletin board of the municipal board (Art. 88), and there was a second posting of each barrio section in the barrio to which it corresponded (Art. 88). On the thirtieth day preceding the election, the municipal board held a meeting before which any citizen could, in writing, present any petition relating to the right of registration. The board remained in open session during the entire day, received all petitions for inclusion, exclusion or correction that may have been filed prior to 6 P.M., after which time no further petitions, except appeals against their resolutions, were received. At this same public session, and at the closed sessions to be held thereafter upon the same and following day, the board finally resolved all pending petitions (Art. 88–8920). Appeals to the Civil Chamber of the corresponding Provincial Audiencia could be taken against all resolutions of the municipal board on these petitions, but no appeal after 10 A.M., of the twenty-sixth day previous to the election could be admitted (Art. 91). Two weeks prior to the election, the board met to correct the provisional register in accordance with the decisions of the Audiencia and its own resolutions. Each section of the provisional register was closed with the certificate of the President, members and Secretary that the entries prescribed by law have been lawfully made and the register was closed (Art. 92). The necessary entries were then made on the permanent register and on the tenth day preceding the election each [Page 36] section of the permanent register was closed with a certificate to that effect and to the effect that all entries and cancellations prescribed by the law had been made, signed by the President, Secretary and members (Art. 93). Then followed in due course the preparation of the college register, transcribed from the corrected permanent register and likewise certified by the President, Secretary and members, that the electors inscribed therein had electoral rights and that the entries were made according to law (Art. 95).
- Canvass of Returns. Two days after the election, the municipal board met to canvass the returns for municipal officers forwarded by the college boards, which canvass was required to be completed within a period of eight days, but an extension of this period may be granted, after considering the cause of the delay, by the Central Board (Art. 186). There could be present at the canvass by the municipal board, which was required to be held at its usual place of meeting, the official candidates and also delegates of the political parties (Art. 187). The seals of packages transmitted by the college boards could be broken by the municipal board only after their condition had been noted in the minutes of the board, and only when said board was convened in session (Art. 188). The task of the board was to make a consolidated return of the college board returns. Ordinarily this required examination of the minutes, tally sheets and other papers, except the ballots, forwarded by the college electoral boards [Art. 189], but since the municipal elections were consolidated with the general elections (1910) this had not been possible for the reason that all such documents were required to be sent to the provincial board for use in the canvass by that board for provincial and national officers being simultaneously conducted. Upon the completion of the canvass of the various colleges which, under these conditions, was limited to a mere consolidation of the several returns of colleges there was prepared, in triplicate, a consolidated return of the vote of the entire municipality (Art. 18921), and in addition thereto a return of candidates found to be elected was likewise prepared in triplicate, the President, Secretary and members of the board making the canvass signing every page, every copy of the return containing a certificate by them that the return was true and complete. One copy of each of these two returns was at once exposed on the bulletin board of the Municipality, another copy sent under sealed cover to the President of the Provincial Electoral Board and a third copy of both returns was retained with the records of the canvassing board (Art. 195). Upon the written request of any candidate, a certificate signed by the President and Secretary of the board making the canvass is delivered to him showing the consolidated vote for each candidate to the office for which the petitioner was a candidate (Art. 197). Any person, present at the canvass, could, during the progress thereof, indicate to the canvassing board any exceptions to the proceedings and the board passed upon such exceptions (Art. 198). The board issued certificates of election to the candidates found to be elected within three days next following the expiration of the period for filing appeals, and where appeals were filed within three days next following the receipt of the final decision [Page 37] rendered by the appellate board or court as the case may be (Art. 206). Appeals from any resolution of the municipal canvassing board, respecting the canvass, could be taken by any elector to the provincial electoral board (Art. 200), and from any decision of the provincial electoral board upon any such resolution an appeal could be taken to the Civil Chamber of the Provincial Audiencia (Art. 201). The municipal board, sitting as a canvassing board, could decree the nullity of elections in one or more colleges, because of excess ballots or the perpetration of election frauds, and order a special election in said colleges (Art. 202); but of course this order could be appealed from, and usually was, in the manner above noted—first to the provincial board and thence to the Civil Chamber of the Audiencia.
Appellate procedure of the municipal board: The appellate procedure of the Municipal Board was limited to an appeal which any elector could present to that board against any resolution of a college electoral board respecting the scrutiny, but the appeal must have been filed with the municipal board before it had posted the consolidated return of the election in public place (Art. 199).
the college electoral board
Composition: The College Board was appointed by the Municipal Board, and consisted of three members, as follows:
- 1 President, chosen by the unanimous vote of the Municipal Board from among the electors of the Municipality having no political affiliations; in the absence of a sufficient number of non-partisan electors, the remaining appointments were made by a majority vote of the municipal board, but with the restriction that they be distributed equitably between the two political parties or independent groups entitled to representatives on these college boards (Art. 52, Sec. 522).
- 2 Political members, one was designated by each of the two political parties or independent groups of electors who may have nominated tickets, to be determined as follows:—In case but two complete tickets appeared upon the official ballot, each political party or independent group making such nomination could designate one of the political members; but if more than two complete tickets had been nominated preference was given to organized political parties in the order of the vote polled in the municipality, at the last preceding general election, by such parties for representative in Congress. The order of preference between representatives designated by independent groups nominating complete tickets was left to the decision of the municipal electoral board (Art. 52).
Substitute Presidents and substitute members and clerks of college boards were chosen under a similar rule. The municipal board also appointed watchers within each college, one representative for each political party or independent group of electors having nominated a complete or partial ticket, provided these parties or independent groups designated a representative for such appointment (Art. 52). Presidents and their substitutes, members and their substitutes, clerks and watchers were required to be registered electors of the municipality and in full enjoyment of civil and political rights (Art. 51). From all resolutions of the municipal electoral board designating these colleges, assigning to each its registration list, appointing Presidents, members or their substitutes, or watchers, appeals could be taken to the corresponding provincial electoral board, whose decision was final (Art. 53).
Duties: As we have seen, the College Board had nothing to do with registration, except to receive from the municipal board its registration list. Although the college boards were required to be constituted by the municipal board not more than twenty-eight nor less than twenty-four days before the date of the election, this was for the sole purpose of the appeals which had been provided for against the resolutions of the municipal board constituting them. The duties of the college board proper begin not more than four nor less than two days prior to the date of the election with the visit its President was required to make to the Secretary of the municipal electoral board from whom he received the registration list corresponding to the college over which he presided and all other election supplies pertaining thereto; and by whom he and the clerk who accompanied him on the visit were fully instructed in their duties. These latter duties, which included balloting, challenging, keeping of poll-books, minute-books and tally sheets, the scrutiny and the preparation of election returns, were analagous to the procedure employed in the States of the Union, but were surrounded with many safe-guards which have not been deemed essential in any of our States (Chapters 10–11).
Appeals: Against any resolution of a college electoral board, any elector could present an appeal to the municipal board charged with canvassing the returns for Municipal officers and to the provincial board charged with canvassing the returns for provincial and national offices (Art. 199).
. . . . . . .[Page 39]
Registration of Electors and Conduct of Elections—1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916 and 1918
Under the Cuban Constitution and Electoral Laws, “All male Cubans over twenty-one years of age, inscribed in the Electoral Register, except—(1) those confined in asylums; (2) those mentally incapacitated, such incapacity having been judicially declared; (3) those judicially disqualified by reason of crime; and (4) members of the land and naval force in active service, and members of the Rural Guard, have a right to vote.”
Mr. Victor H. Olmsted, director of the 1907 census, stated: “The preparation of the electoral lists was carried out very carefully and systematically, there having been drawn up a separate alphabetically arranged list for each barrio, of which there were 1069 in Cuba. All means and elements known that might contribute to exactness and rapidity in keeping the lists were employed, and the lists were tied together, bound and sent to the municipal electoral officials.”
The 1907 census shows that the population of Cuba was then 2,048,980 and that there were 551,639 males or 26.9% twenty-one years of age and over. Of the 551,639 males there were 430,514 or 78% Cuban citizens, of whom 420,576 were qualified electors, the 9,938 being members of the armed forces and other persons born in Cuba who did not then have the right to vote. Hence, the qualified electors including the 9,938 were 21% of the entire population.
As the permanent Electoral Registers were made up during the first months of 1908, from the schedules prepared by the house-to-house census enumerators in October and November, 1907, there were very slight increases in the number of inscribed electors up to the time of the holding of the combined municipal and provincial elections on August 1, and the Presidential elections on December 1, 1908, both of which I supervised. About 57 per cent, of the inscribed electors in the Republic participated in these elections and the results were highly satisfactory with respect to the conduct of the election officials and the almost total absence of charges of fraud.
The increase in population and in the number of inscribed electors from 1910 up to 1918, inclusive, as shown by the Municipal Civil Registers, which were admittedly padded, and the Electoral Registers, were as follows:
- 1910, population 2,232,130, electors 476,189 or 21.3%
- 1912, population 2,279,183, electors 621,776 or 27.3%
- 1914, population 2,468,950, electors 697,448 or 28.2%
- 1916, population 2,607,550, electors 796,636 or 30.5%
- 1918, population 2,803,123, electors 1,239,582 or 44.2%
The official returns show that the following numbers or percentages of the inscribed electors actually appeared at the various polling places on the days of the elections and voted.
- 1910, electors 476,189, voted 215,423 or 45.24%;
- 1912, electors 621,776, voted 399,390 or 55.39%;22
- 1914, electors 697,448, voted 440,452 or 63.15%;
- 1916, electors 796,636, voted 353,002 or 44.31%
- 1918, electors 1,239,582, voted 700,440 or 56.51%
Biennial Election of 1918
The biennial election of 1918 (designated “off-year elections”) was proclaimed by the Central Electoral Board and the Board’s proclamation was republished by the six Provincial and the one hundred and ten Municipal Electoral Boards, in accordance with the provisions of Section IV, Article 32, of the Electoral Law. At this election were chosen Representatives in Congress, Provincial and Municipal Councilmen, members and substitute members of the Municipal Boards of Education, renewed in their one-half portion every two years.
No question arose during the electoral period of 1918 touching the constitution of the Central Electoral Board, the political members of which represented the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.
santa clara province
Constitution of electoral boards: In the last preceding general election of 1916, the two political parties casting the largest and next largest number of votes for Representatives were the Conservative Party and the Unionist Liberal Party (The Miguelista faction of the Liberal Party), and to these parties were assigned political membership on the Provincial Electoral Board. The political members of the Provincial Electoral Board appointed, each for his own party, the political members on the twenty-nine Municipal Electoral Boards in the Province.
The Provincial Electoral Board, as constituted in February, 1918, for the period ending on the first business day of February, 1919, was composed—(1) President, Benito J. R. Maribona, Chief Justice of the Audiencia; (2) Carlos Garcia Mendoza, Judge of the Court of First Instance; (3) Leandro Gonzalez Velez, Professor of the Provincial Institute; (4) Mario Ruiz Masa, political member of the Unionist Liberal Party; and (5) Mariano Rodriguez Mora, political member of the Conservative Party.[Page 41]
The president was absent from duty on leave from June 13 to September 11, 1918, His place was filled by Ramon Madrigal, senior associate member of the Audiencia. Judge Carlos Garcia Mendoza was relieved October 13, 1918, and assigned to duty with the Recruiting Commission. His place on the board was filled during the sessions held October 13, 14, and 15 by Juan Miranda Urquiza, the Municipal Judge. From October 19 to October 25, Mr. Miranda Urquiza was relieved by Mr. Garcia Lopez, acting Judge of Instruction. On November 3, Mr. Manuel Carnesoltas y Aguero, Judge of Instruction, was placed on the board and continued to act until February, 1919, relieving Mr. Miranda. On September 24, 1918, Mr. Leandro Gonzalez Velez was relieved on account of being a candidate and his place was filled by Mr. Frank Agramonte. On September 13, 1918, on account of his being a candidate, Mr. Mariano Ruiz Masa was relieved by Dr. Alfredo Herrara Belasco. On September 25, 1918, Mr. Mariano Rodriguez Mora, on account of his being a candidate, was relieved by Dr. Jose M. Ruiz Mayar.
Of the twenty-nine presidents of the municipal electoral boards as constituted for the same period, there were five Judges of First Instance, one Judge of Instruction, and twenty-three Municipal Judges. The five Judges of First Instance were relieved from duty as presidents of the boards and assigned to duty with Recruiting Commissions, one vacancy being filled by a Judge of Instruction. So that, during the electoral period of 1918, which began on the date of the election proclamation and terminated on the issuance of the temporary certificates to the candidates elected, one municipal electoral board was presided over by a Judge of Instruction, and one other a part of the time by a Judge of Instruction, the remainder of the time being divided between the Municipal Judge and a citizen of high standing, fourteen by Municipal Judges and thirteen by Municipal Judges and substitute Municipal Judges alternating.
Nominations: The Conservative Party, the Unionist Liberal Party and the Liberal Party filed their respective certificates of party nominations of national and provincial candidates with the secretary of the provincial electoral board for the biennial election held on November 1, 1918. The provincial electoral board approved, by resolution dated September 27, 1918, the certificates of each party as thus presented. The provincial Audiencia reversed, on appeal on October 7, 1918, the resolution of the provincial electoral board and held that the Liberal Party had no right, under the law and the facts, to file party nominations. A duly certified copy of the decision of the Audiencia reached the provincial electoral [Page 42] board about October 9, 1918. The Liberal Party then obtained the required number of signatures and filed a certificate of nominations as an independent group. The official ballot was formed by the provincial electoral board in accordance with the provisions of Article 122 of the Electoral Law.
Registration: The municipal electoral boards were authorized to receive petitions for inclusion in and exclusion from municipal electoral registers at any time. Prior to the issuance of the proclamation calling an election, the municipal electoral boards met once a quarter, on the first day of January, April, July and October, for the purpose of passing upon such petitions as may have been received. After the date of the proclamation, the municipal electoral boards met weekly, or as often as may have been necessary, and continued to meet down to the twenty-ninth day before the date of the election.
According to the official records the total number of inscribed electors in the province at the close of the registration period, October 2, 1918, was 396,659 or 59.8% of the entire population for that year. The lowest percentage of any municipality was 34.4% and the highest was 85.7%. Three municipalities had over 35% but less than 40%; six had over 40% but less than 50%; five had over 50% but less than 60%; seven had over 60% but less than 70%; and six had over 70% but less than 80%.
All admit that almost two-thirds of the 396,659 inscribed electors represented imaginary or fictitious persons, knowingly and intentionally inscribed in the electoral registers pursuant to agreements previously made and entered into by and between certain designated political leaders and election officials. It is further admitted by all that the election officials, in inscribing these fictitious names in the electoral registers, carried out in form substantially every requirement of the law. As to the scope of the agreements and the methods employed in accomplishing these wholesale frauds, it might be well to permit the officials and political leaders to speak for themselves.23
. . . . . . .
Conduct of elections, scrutinies and returns by college boards: …
. . . . . . .
Practically every college board in the Province certified that its poll books showed the number of persons who actually voted; that its tally sheets contained a true exhibit of all the votes cast; and that its returns contained true and correct results of the election.
A representative of the Unionist Liberal Party appealed to the provincial electoral board from the primary scrutinies of each college board in twenty-two municipalities. The provincial electoral [Page 43] board consolidated the appeals from each municipality and rendered twenty-two decisions, denying the relief sought in its entirety, Mr. Alfredo Barrera, the Unionist Liberal Party’s member, not voting. Subsequently the board annulled the elections in two colleges but did not order special elections to be held therein. Appeals were taken to the Central Electoral Board and that board after consolidating the appeals, rendered one decision, likewise denying the relief sought, Justice Manuel R. Miyeres and Professor Enrique Herrera Cartaya dissenting. The case was carried to the Supreme Court and that court annulled the elections held in 305 colleges out of the 398 involved and ordered special elections to be held in the 305 colleges and also in the two colleges where the elections were annulled by the provincial electoral board.
The Supreme Court confined its investigation to an examination of the ballots and the returns made by the various colleges. A summary of the Court’s essential findings of fact is as follows:
The ballots contained in the packages of 74 colleges have all been found in blank without any mark of voting. Also most all of the colleges in Sagua la Grande are in blank without any marks of voting. Many of the ballots lack the evidence of folding necessary for their insertion in the ballot boxes. The absence of the number of valid ballots which there ought to have been according to the returns of the boards from many colleges, and their substitution by other ballots in equal or different numbers, implies frauds which render the elections void. It appears from the poll books of a great number of the colleges in which the names of the voters are to be entered as they voted that these names are followed in the same numerical order with which they appear inscribed in the registers, either absolutely from the first to the last or by hundreds or parts thereof, which corroborates the frauds already referred to because it is improbable according to the rules of sound judgment that the voters by agreement or by chance voted in the strict order of their inscription in the registers. In one college, the voters almost in their entirety appeared in the poll books in the same order in which they are inscribed in the register which is an indication of fraud, such indication being completely proved by the fact that it is materially impossible for 2,775 voters, who appear as having voted in this college, [to have?] had time to do so in the eleven hours during which the voting lasted. Sufficient elements of proof do not exist to show that the frauds complained of in the 89 remaining colleges have been committed.
The records show that the total number of inscribed electors in the 91 colleges in which the Supreme Court found that the evidence failed to justify the annulment of the elections on the ground of fraud was 66,789.
And the official returns show that 200,872 or 50.64 per cent of the 396,695 inscribed electors in the Province voted at the 1918 November elections.[Page 44]
pinar del rio, matanzas, oriente, habana, and camaguey
The wholesale frauds and criminal practices were not confined to the Province of Santa Clara during the elections of 1918. They were carried out in a like manner in a varying degree in every municipality in each of the other five provinces. It is, therefore, unnecessary to quote the testimony of the witnesses upon this point. It is sufficient to call attention to certain specific and definite data shown by the official records.
The population in 1918, together with the number of inscribed electors in each of these five provinces, were:
- Pinar del Rio, population 268,375, electors 159,328 or 59.4%;
- Habana, population 681,894, electors 109,98223 or 28%;
- Matanzas, population 303,601, electors 121,647 or 40.1%;
- Camaguey, population 218,951, electors 87,317 or 29.9%;24
- Oriente, population 666,654, electors 283,613 or 42.6%.
And the returns show that the following numbers or percentages of the inscribed electors actually appeared at the various polling places at the November, 1918, elections and voted:
- Pinar del Rio, electors 159,328, voted 74,859 or 47.00%;
- Habana, electors 190,982, voted 71,497 or 37.44%;
- Matanzas, electors 121,647, voted 83,054 or 68.27%;
- Camaguey, electors 87,317, voted 35,189 or 40.30%;
- Oriente, electors 283,613, voted 234,969 or 82.85%;
The municipality of Candelaria in the Province of Pinar del Rio with a population of 9,234 had inscribed in 1918 in the electoral registers 25,820 electors. Mr. Octavia Rivero y Fiallo, a candidate on the National Conservative ticket, and Mr. Paulino Ruiz Pina, a candidate on the Liberal National ticket, each received at the November, 1918, election 25,766 votes in Candelaria for representative. Every elector was entitled to cast one vote each for six candidates, regardless of whether or not the six candidates appeared on the same party ticket.
Electoral Administration in General—Evidence
The following prominent public men were carefully examined touching the electoral administration in general and their respective testimony is hereinafter set forth.25
. . . . . . .[Page 45]
Comment and Conclusions
That the foregoing evidence establishes beyond question the fact that the electoral administration of Cuba has been a complete failure, there is and can be no doubt. Every intent and purpose for which the machinery was created and set in motion in 1907 and 1908, were in the end thwarted, not so much on account of the inherent weakness of the law as such, but on account of the absolute disregard and narrow interpretation of its provisions by those charged with its execution. The principal causes will be noted in order to make clear the necessity for the changes, hereafter indicated, which have been made.
Elective and appointive officials: Under the law the qualified voters elect the mayors, the municipal councilmen, the members of the municipal boards of education, the provincial governors, the provincial councilmen and the representatives by direct vote. The President, Vice President and senators are, theoretically, elected by presidential and senatorial electors selected by the voters. All other officials are appointed. All elective officials hold office for four years, except the senators whose terms are eight years. Those affected by the rule of “Proportional Representation” are renewed in their one-half portion every two years and the senators are renewed in their one-half portion every four years. Each province has four senators, and one representative for each 25,000 or fraction over 12,500 of population. There are no congressional districts in the provinces. Each representative is elected by the entire province according to a system of proportional representation. All elections municipal, provincial and national, have been held at the same time since 1910.
Party dictation: The complaint against “party dictation” was universal and two-fold, emanating, first, from persons outside of the two national parties (Conservative Party and Liberal Party) who complained of the control these parties exercised, under the existing law, by reason of their voting membership on the electoral boards; and second, from persons within these two parties who complained that party nominations for elective offices were not the free choice of the voters of the respective parties because such nominations were made by assemblies or conventions which had not renewed their membership for long periods of years.
The first complaint was fully justified in as far as it related to the municipal and college boards and partially justified with respect to some of the provincial boards. The two parties gained very little, if any, advantage by reason of having voting members on the Central Electoral Board.[Page 46]
An investigation of the second complaint demonstrated that the principal parties are practically closed corporations and have been under the same management for many years.
In 1901 the two principal parties were known as the “National Party” and the “Republican Party.” In 1905 the names of these parties were changed to “Moderate Party” and “Liberal Party”, and in 1908 the “Moderate Party” became the “Conservative Party.”
The governing bodies of these parties have heretofore been Barrio, Municipal, Provincial and National Assemblies, sometimes referred to as “Conventions.”
The barrio assemblies consisted of the adherents of the party within the barrio who through committees registered the party adherents and maintained at all times an ex-committee [sic] organized by selecting a president, one or more vice-presidents, one or more secretaries, and a treasurer.
The Municipal Assemblies were composed of the delegates elected by the Barrio Assembly and certain ex-officio delegates, the latter being as a rule the mayor, the ex-mayors, and sometimes other municipal and ex-municipal officials. These assemblies nominated candidates for mayors, municipal councilmen and members of the Municipal Board of Education. These assemblies also elected from among their number a certain number of provincial delegates.
The Provincial Assemblies were composed of the delegates selected by the various Municipal Assemblies and certain ex-officio delegates, the latter being as a rule the governor, ex-governors, political members and ex-political members of the Provincial Electoral Board, provincial councilmen, ex-provincial councilmen and sometimes ex-representatives. These provincial assemblies nominated candidates for provincial governor, provincial councilmen, representatives, senators, senatorial electors, and presidential and vice-presidential electors, and also selected, as a rule, from among their membership, a certain number of delegates to the National Assemblies.
The National Assemblies were composed of delegates elected thereto by the Provincial Assemblies and certain ex-officio delegates, the latter being the senators, representatives and the political members on the Central Electoral Boards; in the conservative party also the president and vice-president of the Republic, ex-presidents and ex-vice-presidents, cabinet members, and ex-cabinet members. These assemblies nominated candidates for Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Republic.
The ex-officio delegates of the Municipal, Provincial and National Assemblies constituted from thirty to forty per cent, of the entire membership of the respective assemblies.[Page 47]
When the assemblies were renewed in 1908, just a short time before the combined municipal and provincial elections were held, a large percentage of the entire strength of each of the National parties in the various barrios turned out and participated in the selection of the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies.
As to subsequent renewals, Dr. Dolz, who has been President of the Conservative National Party for about ten years, said: “In 1908, there was a complete renewal or reconstitution of the municipal assemblies. In 1912 and 1914, there were partial renewals, very few voters participating in the barrio elections to select the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies. In 1916 and 1918, there were no renewals and now, in 1919 there has been a complete renewal. The provincial assemblies are in the same condition with respect to the renewals as the municipal assemblies.”
Dr. Zayas, the leader of the Liberal Party and that party’s nominee for President in 1912 and 1916, in speaking of the renewals of the assemblies of his party, stated: “Our municipal assemblies were first constituted in 1908. Our party by-laws provide that the municipal and provincial assemblies may be renewed every two years, but may be extended for a longer period if the corresponding board of directors so decides. The membership of our party assemblies have been renewed only one time since 1908 and that was in 1911 or 1912. This system of making nominations by municipal, provincial and national assemblies was satisfactory at first but now those persons who are more serious do not wish to participate.”
General Emilio Nunez, Vice-President of the Republic, states: “The political parties in Cuba have what might be called permanent assemblies. These assemblies are sometimes not renewed for many years.”
Judge Landa, President of the Provincial Electoral Board of Pinar del Rio, had the following to say with respect to the party assemblies: “The municipal, provincial and National assemblies of the Liberal Party have not been changed, except by death, since 1908. The same men, except where one or more fail to be re-elected to Congress or where one or more have died, who were nominating candidates for municipal, provincial and National offices in 1908 are doing it today. The Conservative Party is now reorganizing (in 1919) and changing the personnel of its municipal, provincial and national assemblies.”
Governor Guillermo Fernandez Mascaro of Oriente Province and the founder of the Provincial Liberal Party stated: “Political party organizations would not be so bad if the municipal assemblies would be renewed every election. The trouble is that after a municipal convention has been organized, it agrees to continue its organization [Page 48] and the electors do not protest. I think that the assemblies of both the Conservative and Liberal Party in Oriente Province have not been changed since 1908, except the Conservative Party has just had a reorganization (in 1919).”
The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party are the only parties of prominence in Cuba and their assemblies have been essentially permanent in character and dominated by the office holders. This comparatively small number of men have been making all party nominations since 1908—“party dictation” absolute and complete.
It is true that a number of small provincial and municipal political parties have sprung up from time to time having been organized by a few would-be leaders of the National Parties. Some of these parties were formed as protests against “party dictation”, but more often for the purpose of bargaining with one or the other of the big parties. The Unionist Liberal Party of Santa Clara Province does not fall within this category.
Municipal and college electoral boards: The greatest and most extensive electoral frauds have centered in and around the municipal and college electoral boards—false registrations by the municipal boards and stuffing ballot boxes by the college boards. Here, I desire to take as a typical illustration of the nature of these frauds, treating them separately, the biennial elections held in the Province of Santa Clara on November 1, 1918.
As I have indicated, approximately 264,396 fictitious names appeared on the electoral registers in the Province at the close of the registration period of 1918, practically equally distributed among the twenty-nine municipalities according to their population. The question at once arises: For what purpose were these frauds committed? The answer calls for a review of the situation and a restatement of the pertinent provisions of the law and facts.
In 1914, the Liberal Party in the Province of Santa Clara split and formed two groups, headed by Eduardo Guzman and Carlos Mendieta, respectively. Each group presented a certificate of nominations using the same emblem but carrying different candidates. The provincial electoral board decided that the Guzman group was entitled to present nominations as a political party and that the Mendieta group must appear as an “independent group of electors.” The Audiencia reversed on appeal this resolution of the provincial electoral board and held that the Mendieta group was the only one entitled to present nominations as an organized political party. The Mendieta group or “Unionist Liberty Party” had the membership on the College Electoral Boards during the 1914 elections. The Guzman group did not participate in these elections. The Guzman group, known as the Liberal Party in the Province, participated in [Page 49] the 1916 elections but failed to obtain a greater number of votes than the Unionist Liberal Party. This gave the political membership on the provincial electoral board to the Unionist Liberal Party when the board was constituted in February, 1918, for the period ending in February, 1919. The other political member belonged to the Conservative Party.
Five of the twenty-nine municipal electoral boards, as constituted in February, 1918, for the period ending in February, 1919, were presided over by Judges of First Instance and twenty-four by municipal Judges but the judges of first instance were later relieved and assigned to duty with the Recruiting Commission. The false inscriptions began after the five Judges of First Instance had been relieved. No criticism has been urged against the action of the Government in thus relieving these five Judges.
The municipal electoral board being composed of a municipal Judge or substitute municipal Judge as president and two political members, one Conservative and one Unionist Liberal, with conflicting party interests, it is evident from the very nature of such interests that the false inscriptions could not have been carried through without an agreement between the two political members, concurred in by the president of the board and the political leaders, for otherwise the whole scheme could have been defeated by appeals to the Audiencia. The agreements were first made by the provincial and municipal leaders of the Conservative Party and the Unionist Liberal Party, the consideration being a division of the illegal votes on the day of the election between certain candidates of each ticket for representative and municipal councilman. These agreements as a rule were not in effect coextensive with the Province but were confined to the respective municipalities. (There is no territory in Cuba which is not incorporated within some municipality.) To illustrate: In the municipality of, let us say, “A”, there resided two candidates for representative, one on the Conservative ticket and one on the Unionist Liberal ticket. As there were fourteen representatives to be voted for, each running over the entire Province and as under the system of “Proportional Representation” neither party could as a practical matter secure all of the fourteen seats, the two candidates in “A” being the political leaders of their respective parties agreed to have 30,000 fictitious names entered upon the electoral registers and to give to each one on the day of the election these 30,000 votes: Or if there resided but one candidate in “A” for representative, the leaders agreed to give the 30,000 votes to him while he in turn agreed to give the same votes to the candidates of the opposite party for municipal councilmen. The political members on the municipal electoral board [Page 50] carried out these agreements without hesitation. The municipal Judge or the substitute municipal Judge as president of the board, being a political appointee and his judicial tenure of office depending upon the pleasure of the party in power, actively assisted in the registration of the fictitious names.
All knew that if the agreements were carried out on the day of the election the Conservative Party and the Unionist Liberal Party would have control of the electoral boards in the province during the presidential elections of 1920. This caused the National leaders to take a hand in the political affairs of the province after the close of the registration period on October 2, 1918. To understand the situation it is necessary to regress and review briefly the political history of the parties.
Jose Miguel Gomez, a Liberal, was elected President of the Republic in 1908. Dr. Alfredo Zayas, a Liberal, was nominated in 1912 for President. Due to a split in the Liberal Party and also it is alleged to the failure of Goinez actively to support Zayas, he, Zayas, was defeated by General Menocal, the conservative candidate. Zayas was again nominated in 1916 and again defeated by Menocal. Gomez led the Revolution which started in February, 1917, and which had for its object the overthrow of the Menocal Government. Gomez was captured, placed in jail and when released came to the States where he has since resided. Both Gomez and Zayas have been candidates for the Liberal Party nomination for President since the early part of 1918. While the Unionist Liberal Party (the Miguelista faction of the Liberal Party) is confined to Santa Clara Province, Gomez has a large following in the other five provinces.
It will be remembered that the decision of the provincial Audiencia, which declared that the Liberal Party (Zayista faction) had no right to present party nominations, was rendered on October 7, 1918, and reached the provincial electoral board two days later; that Judge Carlos Mendoza was relieved from duty on the Board by Juan Miranda Urquiza, municipal Judge on October 13; that Garcia Lopez, Acting Judge of Instruction, relieved Urquiza on October 19; and that Mr. Carnesoltas y Aguero, Judge of Instruction, was not placed on the Board until November 3.
This political maneuvering is said to have been the result of an agreement between the Conservative Party (the party in power) and the Zayista faction of the Liberal Party, in order to have a majority on the provincial electoral board which would resolve the appeals coming up from the municipal electoral boards in favor of the Zayistas, so that they would be entitled to membership on the college boards at the presidential elections to be held on November 1, 1920, and that in return the Conservative Party was to be given a [Page 51] certain number of representatives in Congress from the province in the 1918 elections.
The facts and circumstances show beyond question that such an agreement was made, at least between the provincial party leaders, and there are strong indications that this agreement was participated in by the National leaders. In the first place, it was unnecessary to relieve Judge Carlos Garcia Mendoza at so late a date for the purpose of assigning him to duty with the Recruiting Commission. He was the senior Judge on duty in the Capital and there were other Judges of First Instance available for duty with the Commission. Again, it was the vote of Juan Miranda Urquiza which constituted the majority opinion in the resolution of the appeals touching the appointment of the members of the college boards in every municipality, except Trinidad. The decisions on the appeals from Trinidad were participated in by Garcia Lopez, his successor. The president of the provincial electoral board and the Unionist Liberal member declined to concur in these decisions. Evidently these two members felt bound to follow the decision of the Audiencia, which as we have seen, had decided that the Unionist Liberal Party and not the Liberal Party was entitled to membership on the College Electoral Boards, and this was the correct view as the Audiencia was the appellate tribunal with full jurisdiction to hear and determine the question. Furthermore, the Conservative Party elected ten, the Unionist Liberal Party one and the Liberal Party three representatives in Congress, according to the returns as made out by the election officials.
As the college electoral boards in twenty-two municipalities out of twenty-nine, as finally constituted for the elections of 1918, were composed of electors affiliated with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party (Zayista faction) it became necessary for the provincial and municipal political leaders of the Conservative Party to cancel their agreements, with respect to the division of the illegal votes made available by the fictitious or false inscriptions, entered into with the Unionist Liberal Party’s leaders and make new agreements of a like character with the leaders of the Zayista group or Liberal Party.
Upon this point Dr. Oscar Soto, Representative in Congress and Secretary of the Conservative Party’s organization in the Province of Santa Clara, said: “At first, the Conservative Party agreed with the Unionist Liberal Party to increase the registrations. Afterwards, in view of the fact that the provincial electoral board would not give the Unionist Liberal Party membership on the college boards, the Conservative Party entered into an agreement with the Liberal Party for the purpose of the operations of the refuerzo.”[Page 52]
The way the 1918 elections were conducted in Santa Clara Province is a matter of public knowledge. While the number of actual voters is variously estimated, I think it is safe to say that probably not more than 5% and certainly less than 20% of the legally inscribed electors went to the polls and voted. Referring to the testimony, it will be noted that Judge Adolpho Perez Ramo of the municipality of Lajas stated that he understood that by agreement the college boards in his town held the elections in a majority of the colleges on the day before election day; that the members of the college boards went to the voting places but there were no voters; that as there was an agreement, in respect to the local matters as well as the provincial elections, to hold the elections in this manner it was not necessary for the voters to go to the polls; and that about two voters for each college went to the polls out of curiosity. Judge Leopoldo Meruelo says that according to public opinion very few electors, if any, went to the polls to vote on November 1, 1918, in Cienfuegos, and that it was stated that the elections were held in the private house of Mr. Soto. Dr. Juan Leal Catala, in speaking of the elections in Cienfuegos, declares that in some of the colleges not a single elector went to the polls to vote, in others some six or eight voted.
The Spanish word “refuerzo” means “reinforcement”, “aid”, “succor.” Refuerzo was applied in this manner: The municipal boards were required under the law to certify to the various college boards a list of inscribed electors corresponding to each college. For instance, Cienfuegos with forty-seven college boards had over 68,000 inscribed electors. This gave each college board about 1,450 electors. The college boards as a rule formally opened the elections at the respective polling places on the hour fixed by law and closed at 6 p.m. At the closing of the polls it was, of course, not difficult for the board to determine the number of votes which had been legally cast as well as the names of the voters. The board would note that it had the names of so many persons on the certified list who had not voted. It would then take a sufficient number of blank ballots so that the number of such blank ballots and the number of the electors who had actually voted would about equal the number of names on the certified list, mark the blank ballots in accordance with the agreements and count them accordingly. In some instances the college boards would not even mark the ballots as they had already figured out the distribution of the illegal ballots, and in many instances the boards would not attempt to place the ballots in the boxes. The boards in practically every case made out the returns in due form and certified to their correctness. These certificates were signed by the members of the boards and the clerks.[Page 53]
Hence, the gravity and extent of the frauds as well as the names and positions of the guilty officials are made clear. Each of the eighty-seven members, constituting the twenty-nine municipal electoral boards, of which twenty-nine were Judges, and the twenty-nine secretaries, knowingly, wilfully, and premeditatedly, and in pursuance of prearranged plans, participated in the commission of these criminal acts. Also, each of the one thousand three hundred and ninety-eight members composing the four hundred and sixty-six college boards and the nine hundred and thirty-two clerks, after taking an oath that he would perform the duties imposed upon him faithfully and in strict accordance with the law, proceeded to prepare and sign the required number, class and kind of official documents relating to the conduct and the result of the elections and then certified to their correctness with full knowledge that each of such documents was totally false. The men who formulated the plans for the commission of these frauds and engineered them through their different stages were leaders of the political parties and high office holders.
That the same kind and class of frauds, varying in degree only, were committed in every municipality in the five other provinces has not been questioned. With rare exceptions here and there, each of the two hundred and forty-three members, constituting the eighty-one municipal electoral boards in the five provinces, eighty-one of whom were likewise Judges, and the eighty-one secretaries, directly participated in the inscription of the large numbers of fictitious names in their respective electoral registers. Again, with rare exceptions here and there, each of the five thousand three hundred and ninety-one members who constituted the college electoral boards in 1918 in the five provinces as well as the three thousand five hundred and ninety-four clerks of said boards knowingly and wilfully participated in the stuffing of the ballot boxes and in the preparation of the false returns evidencing the result of the elections. These members and clerks of the college boards signed the returns and certified to their correctness knowing them to be totally false.
Contested elections—Legal provisions and interpretation thereof by the boards and courts: The provincial electoral boards, the Central Electoral Board, the Audiencias and the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to hear and determine election contests. The boards were prohibited from opening the packages containing official ballots transmitted by the college electoral boards. The authority to open such packages was conferred upon the courts. [Page 54] The only other express provision relating to the scope of the jurisdiction of the boards and the courts in respect to election contests was that found in Art. 202, providing that:
“When, by reason of the number of excess ballots, or of the perpetration of election frauds, the canvassing board shall find it impossible to determine which candidates should be declared elected to a given office or what declaration should be made of the result of a referendum, said canvassing board shall set aside the election as to such office or as to such referendum, in the colleges wherein such cause for nullity appears, and shall order a special election in said colleges.”
Notwithstanding the fact that in several of the twenty-two municipalities, wherein the validity of the 1918 elections were drawn in question, the inscribed electors equalled 60 to 80% of the entire population and notwithstanding the further significant fact that a large percentage of the entire number of inscribed electors appeared from the returns to have actually voted, both the Provincial Electoral Board and the Central Electoral Board declined to set aside the elections on the ground of fraud. These boards limited their inquiry to an examination of the official returns for the sole purpose of determining whether or not such returns were made out in accordance with the provisions of the electoral law. The boards refused to go behind the returns and hear oral testimony touching the question whether or not there were any real elections held. The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court took practically the same view except where an actual count of the ballots in the packages contradicted the returns.
As was stated in my report to the President of Cuba, dated May 9, 1919, a copy of which was handed to you some time ago,25 the evidence shows conclusively that an extremely technical procedure and the application of narrow rules of evidence, neither having any proper place in the electoral jurisprudence, have operated so to restrict the inquiry of both boards and courts as to defeat, in many cases, an adequate review and a just decision on the merits. My examination of cases revealed many instances where petitions were rejected for mere defects of form, a familiar example being the failure to cite the proper article of the law infringed. I noted instances where the courts held that they could only pass upon questions which related to the provisions of the law actually cited; one case where the court deemed itself without authority to open packages of ballots, where it was alleged that approximately twenty ballots were improperly counted, on the ground that the allegation was not sufficiently exact as to whether the number of such ballots [Page 55] was greater or less than twenty, and therefore not indicating explicitly whether or not the error in the court was sufficient to affect the result. A case where a superior electoral board held that it could not properly consider a contest where the petition alleged that violence at the polls prevented the election from being an expression of the will of the electors, on the ground that its jurisdiction was limited strictly to cases of “excess of ballots” and the “perpetration of election frauds”, and that violence on the part of others than the members of the board could not be regarded as fraud.
This narrow view of the intent and purpose of the electoral law was not confined to contested election cases. The evidence shows that learned Judges were of the opinion that they must be governed in all matters relating to the elections by the documents if made out in legal form. As an example, Judge Landa, President of the Provincial Audiencia and of the Provincial Electoral Board, held that he was required to have 40,000 ballots printed for the municipality of Candalaria when he knew that the total population of that town was less than 10,000. Judge Leopoldo Meruelo, President of the Municipal Electoral Board of Cienfuegos, after stating that he knew the lists of names presented for inscription were fraudulent, admitted that he would have voted to inscribe even 2,800,000 names if the petitions had been presented in due form.
Municipal judges: The municipal Judges and their substitutes were, as a general rule, purely political appointees, selected because they were deserving Conservatives or Liberals, depending upon the party in power. No other qualifications were required. They were not necessarily lawyers and their positions were not permanent.
Permanent electoral registers—Population census: It was evident that the permanent electoral registers made up in 1908 from the schedules of the house-to-house enumerators could not be used as a basis for future elections. Two courses were open, viz, the taking of a population census or providing for a voluntary registration before each election. After considerable discussion and investigation the former course was adopted. It was realized that, due to the total lack of interest on the part of the great mass of electors in the political affairs of the Country, very few would voluntarily go out and register. Again, the obtaining of a fair and honest voluntary registration was impossible without setting up an elaborate and complicated system.
I propose to point out under this heading the fundamental changes made in the electoral law and the essential features relating to electoral matters in the Judiciary Reorganization Act and the Law of Pardons.[Page 56]
i. the new electoral code
Political parties: The organization and interior government of political parties in Cuba have not heretofore been regulated by statute. The necessity for such statutory provision in order to guarantee such adequate and frequent re-organization as to make the parties representative of their constituents, to permit the easy organization of new parties representing national opinion, and to provide that all nominations must be made in the calendar year in which the elections are to be held, by assemblies of the parties completely reorganized for the purpose, was apparent. One of the serious objections to the old system was the practice of nominating candidates for office, and especially for President, long periods in advance of the elections, a practice which has, caused much dissatisfaction and tended to keep the country in constant agitation. An important chapter regulating the parties has, therefore, been added to the Electoral Code.
The Central Electoral Board is required to keep a register of political parties. The old political parties will be allowed to register in the present year and retain their character as such. In case they secured representatives to the House of Representatives in the last elections in not less than three provinces, they may register as national parties. If they obtained representatives in less than three provinces, they may register as provincial parties, and if they obtained only the election of municipal councilmen, they may register as municipal parties.
In order to cover a situation which is likely to arise, and which will most certainly arise during the present year, provision is made for the determination by adequate hearings of a contest in case two factions of a party attempt to register their factions as the party itself.
A very difficult problem to solve was the manner in which new parties should be allowed to organize. This was settled by providing that a group of electors not less than 20 when trying to form a municipal party, of 60 when trying to form a provincial party, and 100 when trying to form a national party might within a given time after the passage of the law petition the Central Electoral Board to be permitted to organize a new political party, presenting at the same time its platform, party emblem, provisional statutes, and its proposed executive committees. Upon approval by the Central Electoral Board, the group is then entitled to solicit electors to join their party. If the group obtains a number of electors equal to 5 per cent, of the total number of votes cast in the municipality for the office for mayor in the preceding election in the case of a municipal party, or 5 per cent, of the total number of votes cast in the province for [Page 57] the office of governor, in the case of a provincial party, or 5 per cent, of the total number of votes cast for presidential electors in each one of three provinces, in the next preceding presidential election in the case of a national party, it is entitled to be registered as a political party. Special provision is made for the 1920 elections, making the requirement 3 per cent, of the total number of registered electors of the municipality, province, or three provinces, respectively, as determined by the official census of 1919. The Central Electoral Board on granting recognition to the group as a new party is to fix a period within which it shall proceed to hold elections in the barrios for delegates to the municipal assembly, and for the organization of provincial and national assemblies.
In lieu of the procedure above outlined, the group of electors may, if it obtains the approval of the Central Board at least thirty days before the date set for the reorganization of existing political parties, which will be explained later on, effect its organization and hold registration at the time when the organized parties hold their registrations, and if it obtains in this way the required number of electors it is entitled to be recognized as a political party.
Political parties are required to re-organize every two years and to conduct registrations of members every four years. Detailed provisions are made for the conduct of the registrations which extend over two weeks of the month of January preceding the election. Provision is made to prevent fraud and to permit the free registration of any elector in whichever party he chooses. The parties are required to show as the result of their registrations a number of electors equivalent to that stated above for the formation of new parties, in order to entitle them to continue as organized political parties.
The former scheme of assemblies or conventions is maintained. It provides for Barrio Assemblies of the electors of the respective barrios, and municipal, provincial and national delegate assemblies composed of elective and ex-officio delegates.
In February of election years, the electors of the respective parties in each barrio meet and choose delegates to the municipal assemblies. Here, as in the conduct of the registration, adequate provisions are made for the honest conduct of the voting and for contest in cases of alleged frauding. Barrio assemblies in addition to electing delegates to the municipal assemblies appoint an executive committee to take charge of the affairs of the party in the barrio, and are required to dissolve as soon as these functions have been completed.
The municipal assemblies are to consist of a specified number of delegates elected by direct vote of the barrio resident electors, and of the mayor and municipal councilmen affiliated with the respective parties as ex-officio delegates. These assemblies have power to nominate [Page 58] candidates for municipal offices, to select delegates for the corresponding provincial assembly and to elect a municipal committee to direct the electoral campaign of the party within the municipality.
The provincial assemblies are to consist of a specified number of delegates elected by the municipal assemblies, and of the governor, provincial councilmen, senators and representatives of the province as ex-officio delegates, if affiliated with the party. These assemblies have power to nominate candidates for provincial offices, representatives, senatorial and presidential electors; to select delegates for the National Assembly to the number of twenty for each province, no member of the provincial assembly can vote for more than sixteen delegates to the National Assembly; and to elect a provincial committee to direct the electoral campaign of the party within the province.
The National Assembly is to be composed of the provincial delegates, and of the senators, representatives, ex-presidents of the Republic and ex-presidents of the National Assemblies affiliated with the party as ex-officio delegates. The National Assembly has the power to nominate candidates for President and Vice-President of the Republic and to elect a National committee to direct the electoral campaign of the party throughout the Nation.
Upon the accomplishment by the assemblies of the object for which they were constituted, they are dissolved by operation of law. Each assembly, however, is authorized to elect an executive committee to manage the party’s interest until the convening of a new assembly.
A provision is made preventing the assemblies from validly holding sessions without the presence of a certain percentage of the elective members, in order to prevent domination by the ex-officio members.
No non-elective public official or employee, either national, provincial or municipal, is eligible for delegate to any assembly, except professors of educational institutions. Neither can persons with penal antecedents as defined in Art. 59 of the Code be delegates to political assemblies.
In addition to the provision of the chapter with regard to the organization of parties, independent groups of electors not organized into parties may make nomination by petition if they obtain the required number of signatures. This feature existed under the old law but provisions are inserted to prevent fraudulent signatures on the petitions.
Elections—National and partial: Every four years, beginning with the year of 1920, the President and Vice-President, one-half of the [Page 59] senators and one-half of the representatives will be elected. Every four years, beginning with the year of 1922, one-half of the representatives and the provincial governors, provincial councilmen, municipal alcaldes, municipal councilmen and members of boards of education will be elected. This takes out of the presidential campaigns the excitement and political activity incident to the election of municipal and provincial officials.
Electoral boards: The permanent electoral boards have been so reconstituted that none of the representatives of the political parties on the boards shall have voting powers, although their interests are protected by giving them a full right to be heard, to have their opinions recorded and to make protests against the action of the board. The judicial members with power to vote are chosen by lot so as to eliminate appointment because of political inclinations. In this way the control of the boards by political parties and combinations has been eliminated. The domination of the political parties on the college electoral board has also been removed by preventing their participation in the selection of the voting members of the board.
Central electoral board: The Central Electoral Board will hereafter be composed of (1) a member of the Supreme Court of Justice; (2) an Associate Justice of the Audiencia of Havana; (3) a titular professor of the law faculty of the University of Havana who holds his position by competitive examination and who is not active in politics; and (4) one political member designated by each political party duly organized and one by each independent group of electors having the prescribed requisites.
The member of the Supreme Court of Justice who is to be president of the board and the Associate Justice of the Audiencia of Havana together with their respective substitutes are to be designated by lot by the Supreme Court and will hold office for two years. The professor is to be designated by the faculty and to hold office for two years. The political members are to be designated by the governing bodies of the political parties and independent groups of electors. Their terms of office depend upon the pleasure of their respective political parties and independent groups of electors.
Provincial electoral boards: Hereafter each provincial board will consist of (1) an Associate Justice of the Provincial Audiencia; (2) a Judge of First Instance, Instruction or Correctional, on duty in the Capital of the province; (3) a titular professor of the provincial Institute of Secondary Instruction who holds his position by competitive examination and is not active in politics; and (4) one political member designated by each duly organized political [Page 60] party, and one designated by each independent group of electors having the prescribed requisites.
The Associate Justice of the Audiencia who is to be president of the board and the Judge of First Instance, Instruction or Correctional, as well as their respective substitutes are to be designated by lot. The professor and his substitute are to be selected by the Audiencia and hold office for two years. The political members are to be designated by the political parties and independent groups of electors and are to hold office during the pleasure of the party or independent group to which they belong.
Municipal electoral boards: Hereafter each municipal electoral board will be composed of (1) a president, and (2) the corresponding political members. The president of the board will be the municipal Judge in those municipalities where there are only one municipal Judge and his substitute is to be designated in accordance with the organic law of the Judiciary, and in those municipalities where there are more than one municipal Judge, the president of the board and his substitute are to be designated by lot from among the municipal Judges by the Provincial Audiencia. The duties of the municipal Judges on the Municipal Electoral Boards are to take precedence over all other official duties whether serving in their character as municipal Judge, or temporarily as substitute of another judge of career, or on any other commission. This will prevent the practice of placing the municipal Judge on special duty so as to substitute for him a less desirable person. A notary public will sit with the municipal electoral board during the scrutinies or primary canvass of the election returns. The political members are to be designated by the duly organized political parties and independent groups of electors having the legal requisites.
College electoral boards: Hereafter each college electoral board will consist of (1) a president; (2) two members; (3) political members; and (4) a secretary.
On a fixed day before the date upon which elections are to be held, the municipal electoral board is required to prepare a “presidents’ list”, a “members’ list” and a “secretaries’ list” of names containing four, ten, and four times, respectively, the number of colleges in the municipality. The names composing these lists must be selected from among the “larger tax-payers”, professional men, school teachers, heads of families, presidents and secretaries of unions, presidents and secretaries of agriculture and working men’s associations, who are able to read and write, who have no criminal records, and who are qualified electors. The lists thus prepared must be posted on the bulletin boards and in five other places in the municipality for five consecutive days. During the five days any [Page 61] inscribed elector in the municipality may petition the municipal electoral board to exclude any name on either of the lists. The municipal electoral board must hear and determine these petitions and correct the lists accordingly. From the corrected presidents’ list and secretaries’ list the board will select a president and secretary, together with their respective substitutes, for each college board and assign by lot, the presidents thus selected, to their respective college boards. The party affiliation of the secretary of each college board must be different from that of the president of the college board.
On the termination of the process of selecting the presidents and secretaries of the various college boards and their assignment to their respective boards, the municipal electoral board must select the two voting members of each college board and their respective substitutes by lot, the process being carried out in this manner: Each name of the persons on the corrected members’ list having been written on a small piece of paper and all having been placed in an opaque receptacle, thoroughly mixed by stirring, a person to be selected by the municipal electoral board from among those present, not in any way connected with the board, blindfolded draws out the names one at a time. The persons whose names appear on the first two papers drawn shall be the voting members of college board No. 1, the second two shall be the voting members of college board No. 2, and so on, until the membership of each college board is completed. The two substitute members of each college board are to be determined in the same manner by continuing the process of drawing. This drawing must take place in the presence of the public at a fixed hour.
The municipal electoral board is required to select two clerks for each college board from among persons with special qualifications.
Each duly organized political party and independent group of electors possessing the required qualifications [is] authorized to appoint one political member and one substitute political member for each electoral college. The political members thus appointed form an integral part of the college board, but have no right to vote upon any question.
After the complete personnel of each college board has been selected in the manner indicated, the municipal electoral board must forward without delay to the corresponding provincial electoral board the name of each person for confirmation. The provincial electoral board is required to publish, by municipalities, in the official organ of the province the name of each person constituting each college board.
Personnel of the electoral boards declared to be public officials: Presidents, members, political members, secretaries and clerks of [Page 62] all electoral boards, as well as notaries of municipal electoral boards and inspectors “shall be considered public officials within the meaning of Art. 68 of the Constitution.” The persons here named are, therefore, placed beyond the pardoning power of the President of the Republic for crimes committed in connection with official duties.
Division of barrios into precincts or colleges and assignment of electors thereto: On a fixed day before the date upon which an election is to be held each municipal electoral board is required to divide the barrios into electoral colleges or precincts and assign the inscribed electors to their respective colleges. There may not be assigned to any college more than four hundred registered electors. The relative time for assigning the electors to polling places has been changed so that the assignment of the electors does not take place until after the municipal registers have been closed and all illegal registrations removed from the registers. This will prevent the possibility of more than four hundred electors being assigned to one polling place. In the past the numbers, due to late and usually illegal registrations often ran into the thousands. The division into colleges and the assignment of electors thereto must be given wide publicity by the municipal electoral board and must be forwarded to the corresponding provincial electoral board for approval. The provincial electoral board is required to publish in the official organ of the province a list of the division into colleges of the barrios of each municipality, stating the number of inscribed electors assigned to each one and the exact location of each electoral college.
Registration of electors: The Cuban Congress has authorized the taking of a population census. The work is under way and will be sufficiently near completion by January 15, 1920, for all electoral purposes. The enumerators will be provided with books of duplicate voting cards, one of which is to be delivered to each elector and the other to remain in the book for purposes of record.
The cards given to the electors are each numbered in series so that no two electors receive cards of the same number and series. They often contain a personal description of the elector and must be presented at the polls in order to entitle him to vote.
The permanent registers will be made up by the Bureau of Census from the electors’ duplicate voting cards. The registers are to be kept up to date by the process of inclusion and exclusion. It is true that the “old process”, which was of a like character, failed to keep the registers pure. The additional safe-guards, which I shall point out, affords the most adequate protection against future abuses.
To be entitled to registration as an elector, the person whose inclusion or registration is sought must have resided in the province for three months, in the municipality for two months, and in the barrio [Page 63] for one month immediately preceding the last day allowed for the presentation of petitions for registration or inclusion, which has been changed from 30 days to 120 days prior to the election. The petition for inclusion must be addressed to the municipal electoral board and must be personally presented to the board by the elector seeking inclusion. This makes it much more difficult to obtain a false registration, which was facilitated in the past by the fact that any one could apply for the registration of another with the result that frequently thousands of false petitions were presented by one man. No person has now the right to apply for the registration or inclusion of another as an elector. Each petition for inclusion must specifically set forth all of the facts required by the new Code.
Any citizen may petition the municipal electoral board for the exclusion of any name appearing on the electoral register.
It is the duty of the municipal electoral board to hear and determine all petitions for inclusion and exclusion, and an appeal will lie to the corresponding provincial electoral board from the resolution, of the municipal electoral board disposing of such petitions.
When a municipal electoral board decrees the inclusion in the register of a petitioner, it is required to deliver to the interested party a voting card containing a personal description of the petitioner and to file a duplicate of the same with the records.
Adequate provision is made for the issuance of duplicate voting cards when it is properly shown that the original has been lost.
On the one hundred and ninth day preceding an election, each municipal electoral board is required to convene and prepare a summary, to be transmitted on the following day to the corresponding provincial board, containing the following statistical data arranged by barrios:
- The total citizen population according to the last decennial census;
- The total registration according to the last decennial census of population;
- The ratio between the total number of registered electors as fixed by the last decennial census of population, and the total citizen population according to said census, after subtracting from said total number of registered electors the difference between the number of exclusions since the taking of said census and the number of inclusions of electors who had previously been excluded for failure to vote;
- The total registration for the current year;
- The ratio between the total number of registered electors for the current elections and the total citizen population according to the last decennial census;
- The total registration for the last election;
- The total number of exclusions of registrants who have lost electoral capacity since the last election—(1) because of failure to vote at the last preceding election, (2) because of change of residence, (3) because of enlistment in the armed forces, (4) because of admission to asylums, (5) because of conviction of crime, (6) because of death, (7) for other reasons provided by law; referring in each case to the reports of various Executive Departments of the Government and of Judges of Courts required to be submitted;
- The total number of inclusions since the last preceding election—(1) all persons attaining majority, (2) all those who have changed residence, (3) all those electors who failed to vote at the last preceding election and have been reregistered, (4) for other reasons provided in the Code;
- The number of appeals filed to date—(1) against resolutions ordering inclusions, (2) against resolutions denying inclusions, (3) against resolutions ordering exclusions, (4) against resolutions denying exclusions;
- The number of duplicate voting cards issued to the respective electors, instead of the original, since the last election.
On the day on which the statistical summaries are forwarded to the provincial electoral board, the municipal electoral board is required to send certified copies thereof to the municipal assemblies of all political parties and to the principal newspapers desiring to publish same, to post copies on its bulletin board, in the office of the mayor and in the offices of the lieutenants of the various barrios.
The provincial electoral board is required, before the eightieth day preceding every election, to order the respective municipal electoral board to make corrections in their registers by striking off illegal registrations and those fraudulently made, and in case any municipal electoral board shall neglect or refuse to make such corrections, the provincial electoral board shall order the production of the registers and itself make the corrections after giving all interested parties an opportunity to be heard.
Whenever it shall appear from the statistical summaries submitted by the municipal electoral board, or from any other evidence in possession of the provincial electoral board, that the ratio between the total number of registered electors in any barrio and the total citizen population as fixed by the last decennial census, exceeds by more than 1% the ratio between the total number of registered electors as fixed by the last decennial census, less the excess of exclusions for failure to vote at the elections subsequent to the taking of said census over the inclusions of said persons subsequent to the taking of the said census,—and the total citizen population as shown by said census,—the provincial electoral board shall proceed [Page 65] to a thorough investigation and revision of the registers in the following manner:
- When the difference between the ratios above referred to is greater than one per cent, the provincial electoral board shall, after such investigation, direct the municipal electoral board to strike off the entries of all registrations which are shown to have been improperly made, and in case of necessity may order the municipal electoral board to produce the registers in order that the provincial electoral board may itself make the corrections.
- When the difference between the ratios above referred to is greater than three per cent, and the provincial electoral board after such investigation, is unable to reduce the difference in said ratios to less than three per cent, in the manner above provided, it shall order the elections to be held on the basis of the registration for the preceding election as amended by the exclusions made by the municipal electoral board subsequent thereto and adding the names of those electors who did not vote at the preceding election but who appear to have since been properly re-registered.
The provincial electoral board is required to prepare and send to the municipal electoral board revised copies of the summaries of statistical data and publish the same in two consecutive issues of the Official Gazette and the official organ of the province, as well as in two newspapers of general circulation throughout the province in three issues thereof at intervals of five days between insertions. The provincial electoral board is also required to furnish copies of the revised statistical summaries to all newspapers desiring to publish them. The municipal electoral boards are likewise required to give wide publicity to the summaries.
This elaborate system of reports and investigations of excessive registrations has a two-fold object (1) to enable the Provincial electoral boards to know at a glance the municipalities in which the registrations are above the normal ratio to population and consequently to take the necessary action to detect fraud, and (2) to require such publicity that everyone may know whether the registration in the municipalities has been conducted honestly. It is hoped that this feature will do much to cure the worst evil of the electoral administration—the padded registration lists.
After each presidential election the names of all electors who failed to vote are stricken from the registers and they are required to re-register to entitle them to vote at subsequent elections.
From the fortieth to the fifteenth day preceding an election the provincial electoral boards must send inspectors to all the municipal districts in their respective provinces to see that all electoral registers are properly made up and that the issue of all duplicate and subsequent voting cards is properly entered. The inspectors are [Page 66] required to advise the provincial electoral boards of all irregularities and the latter are empowered to take the necessary steps to have the provisions of the new Code strictly complied with.
During the thirty days following the second election subsequent to the promulgation of the new Code, and quadrennially thereafter, each municipal electoral board is required to open a new permanent electoral register, transcribing thereto every uncancelled inscription contained in the old register. The inscriptions must be transcribed by barrios in alphabetical order of surnames, with new serial numbers beginning with one.
Election inspectors: Heretofore the electoral boards had had no independent means of obtaining information relating to the electoral administration. Therefore, a chapter on election inspectors was added and is now a part of the new Code. The inspectors are to be appointed by the provincial electoral boards and are to have authority to summon and examine witnesses under oath; require the production of books, papers, and documents, attend meetings of subordinate boards, and advise members to search out improper or fraudulent registrations; take appeals from decisions; and challenge voters at the polls. The election inspectors must be qualified electors and able to read and write. No inspector may be assigned to investigate any specific irregularity or fraud which is alleged to have been perpetrated by a member of his own political party. The provincial inspectors may be removed by the Central Electoral Board.
The Central Electoral Board is given power to investigate the operations of inferior boards by one of its own members or through inspectors appointed by it.
Official ballots: At the elections to be held on November 1, 1920, there will be chosen presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial electors, and one-half of the representatives, as well as provincial governors, mayors, and all provincial and municipal officers whose terms are about to expire, the latter to hold office for two years only. Thereafter, as hereinabove indicated, all elective officers will be elected at the National and Partial elections. Provisions are made in the new Code for a separate ballot of a distinct color to be used in voting for municipal officers. The two ballots, “Provincial” and “Municipal”, will be deposited by the voters at the same time and in one ballot box.
Primary scrutiny by college boards—Refuerzo: Hereafter the polls are to open at 6 A.M. and must be closed at 3 P.M. on election day. As not more than four hundred inscribed electors may be assigned to any one college board it was considered that the time in [Page 67] dicated would be amply sufficient for each elector to vote. Immediately upon closing the polls at 3 P.M. the college board is required to begin the primary scrutiny or canvass. If the canvass is not completed, the returns duly made out, certified and signed by 12 o’clock at night on election day, the college board must replace the ballots in the ballot box together with all the documents pertaining to the election, lock and seal the ballot box and transmit it to the municipal electoral board which will complete the primary scrutiny or canvass.
The larger opportunities for the corrupt use of the refuerzo came, as I have said, through the padding of the electoral census with fictitious names and the printing of the corresponding large number of official ballots. While most adequate safe-guards against the padding of the electoral registers have been introduced, the number of electors regularly inscribed on the college register lists will always exceed the number of actual voters as shown by the poll books, a limited field remained in which the corrupt use of the refuerzo might be employed. This field is reduced to the minimum by providing that the primary scrutiny must be closed on or before 12 o’clock at night and must be public at all stages.
Provisions are made in the new Code for investigating, by provincial election inspectors, delays in the transmission of the ballot boxes in those cases where college boards do not complete the primary scrutiny on or before the time stated.
General canvass: Under the old law the provincial electoral board canvassed the returns for all offices, except those of the municipality, receiving the returns, ballots and documents direct from the several hundred college boards. The college boards sent to the municipal electoral boards only one copy of the returns evidencing the result of the elections for municipal offices. The concentration in provincial electoral boards of the duty of canvassing the returns from the numerous college boards in the province led to great delays in announcing the results and afforded many opportunities for the commission of frauds. It was obvious that if the duty of canvassing the returns from the various college boards in the province could be distributed among the municipal electoral boards, the work would be materially expedited and the opportunities for the commission of frauds would be greatly reduced. Therefore, the new Code directs that the general “canvass be made by the municipal electoral boards for their respective municipalities aided by a notary public whose duty it is to attest the acts showing the result of the canvass. The municipal electoral board must complete the canvass, make a consolidated return in quadruplicate and publish the result within a specified time. This canvass must likewise be carried out publicly. [Page 68] The duty in this respect of the provincial electoral board is thereby confined to consolidating the returns from the various municipal electoral boards.
Municipal electoral boards are empowered to annul, upon their own motion or at the instance of any interested party, the elections, with respect to municipal offices or municipal referendums, and order new elections when it appears conclusively, upon examination of the documents, except the official ballots, that any of the specific causes for nullity set forth in the Code exists. Provincial electoral boards are given the same power with respect to provincial and National offices.
Contested elections: Under the old law the procedure for contested elections was one of both administrative and judicial review. Appeals would lie from the resolutions of municipal canvassing boards, in case of municipal offices and municipal referendums, to the provincial electoral board, thence to the Civil Chamber of the Provincial Audiencia, whose decision was final; and from the resolutions of provincial electoral boards of canvass, in case of provincial and National offices and provincial and National referendums, to the Central Electoral Board and thence to the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, whose decision was final. The jurisdiction of the courts was wholly appellate. Owing to the technical construction placed upon the provisions of the law relating to the scope of the power of the boards and courts to inquire into election frauds, it was made clear that the new Code should speak explicitly to both canvassing boards and the courts, not only as to procedure and rules of evidence, but also as to the particular frauds which justify a decree of nullity, and in mandatory terms as to those frauds which render imperative a decree of nullity. Furthermore, it was made clear that the jurisdiction of the courts to be prompt and effective must be both original and appellate.
A thorough investigation of the electoral administration in Cuba during the last ten years led to the conclusion that the resolution of contested election cases, except as otherwise provided in Art. 55 of the Constitution, must ultimately rest with the judiciary. The new Code establishes a definite judicial procedure and liberal rules; of evidence, thereby conferring upon the courts adequate authority and process for the ascertainment of all relative facts for the proper determination of all electoral disputes, whether the office or referendum in question be National, Provincial or Municipal. To the extent to which the courts respond and judicial process is respected and obeyed, the effect of these reforms will be certainty, finality and promptness in the disposition of election contests and stability in electoral administration.[Page 69]
After laying down the broad rule that the court shall decide all petitions for the annulment of elections on the merits without taking into consideration the fact that such petitions may be defective in form or that they have failed to state the articles of the Code which are considered infringed, the Code makes it the duty of the court to decree the nullity of the elections held in any college or colleges without the necessity of any further evidence whenever it shall be established either by documentary or parole evidence that any one of the fifteen specifically named and defined causes is found to exist. The inquiry of the courts, however, is not limited to the fifteen specific causes for nullity, but extends to all matters affecting the validity of any election. Full responsibility now rests upon the courts to protect the political rights of the people, and that without any excuse whatever for failure to do so.
Illegal electoral expenses or corrupt practices: Political parties and independent groups of electors were to a very limited extent recognized and defined in the old law. The new Code provides in detail for the organization of each and regulates their operations. No restrictions had ever been placed on electoral expenses and it was therefore decided to incorporate into the law a chapter dealing with corrupt practices. The laws of the various states were carefully studied and the provisions governing corrupt practices adapted to local conditions were included in the law.
In the first place, according to the usual custom, each party and independent group of electors is required to have a treasurer who must file a complete report of all expenses incurred and is held to a strict accounting for electoral funds.
Certain public officials and specified classes of corporations of a public nature are prohibited from contributing to campaign funds and the amounts which candidates, other persons and corporations may contribute to campaign funds are strictly limited.
The objects for which the parties may pay out money are specified, and include only the generally recognized legitimate election expenses which have met approval in the various states of the Union. Analogous restrictions are placed on public authorities—national, provincial and municipal in expanding list of employees during electoral period as explained in the next succeeding paragraph.
Limitation on the power to appoint employees: Much complaint has been made against the party in power with regard to the increase of temporary employees, not provided for in the budget, as the time for elections approach. For example, it is alleged and not denied that in the street cleaning department of Havana in the year 1916, an electoral year, the expenses for wages alone for the month of July was $5,182.00. This increased in the month of August [Page 70] to over $7,000.00, in the month of September to over $50,000.00, and in October to over $150,000.00. The total budget of the department for all purposes for the entire year was $821,000.00, or a little over $68,500 per month. The monthly expenses for August were about $35,000 in excess of the average allowance for the month, and in September the expenses increased to over $157,000, and in October to over $255,000. The purpose of the increased expense for the employment of laborers is obvious.
To prevent the recurrence of situations of this nature, which are reported to occur generally as the time for elections approach, provisions were inserted in the law which should make it impossible to so increase the number of temporary employees. Public officers are prohibited from making appointments of officers and employees whether or not included in the budget, or of temporary employees during the electoral period and from increasing the audits for temporary employees, materials and incidentals. In case of urgent necessity offices and employments specifically provided for in the budget may be filled.
Publication in the Official Gazette of all officers and employees of the government, whether national, provincial, or municipal is required thirty days before the election proclamation. Officers charged with the accounting of funds and the payment of officers and employees are required, under penalty for failure to do so, to report for prosecution any violations of the law which they observe.
A penalty is provided for public officers who present charges against their subordinates during the electoral period without good legal cause. Penalties are also provided for public officers who suspend their subordinates or declare offices vacant without good cause.
ii. the judiciary law
The new electoral code provides, as stated above, for Municipal Electoral Boards composed of municipal Judges of the respective head towns of the municipalities as presidents and political members appointed, one by each political party and one by each independent group of electors. As the political members have no voting power, the honest and efficient administration of the work of the board hinges upon the uprightness and ability of its president. It was, therefore, absolutely essential to provide for a president who would be as free as possible from political influence. In looking over the field for a class of officials who would fulfill the requirements, it was decided that the municipal Judge, if his appointment could be taken out of politics, and his tenure and chances for advancement made sufficiently secure to attract lawyers of ability to the office, would be [Page 71] the best possible person to charge with the responsibility of the electoral administration in the municipality.
As supplementary to the new electoral code, which provides that the presidents of all the Municipal Electoral Boards shall be municipal Judges whose duties on the Electoral Boards are to take precedence over all other duties, I therefore recommended that a law be passed amending the judicial code so as to strengthen the office of municipal judge along the lines indicated. As a result a law was passed which in addition to making various amendments to the judiciary law which have no bearing on electoral administration assures the tenure and independence of the municipal judge. In the first place all municipal judgeships are declared vacant. The municipal judges are divided into four classes, the first three being located in municipal capitals, the division into classes depending on the importance of the locality. The fourth class includes only judges of the barrios or subordinate local divisions, and are appointed by the president. As they have no electoral functions no further mention of them will be made.
The judiciary in Cuba, from the Supreme Court down, is arranged in classes or categories and promotion from one category to another is the rule, so that when a lawyer has once become a judge of career, as it is styled, he has an opportunity for advancement in the judicial scale as far as the Supreme Court. The municipal judges to secure their tenure were, therefore, placed in the judicial categories and made judges of career. This was done by placing those of the first-class, which include only the judges of Havana, in the present eighth category along with judges of higher rank but of less important jurisdictions. The municipal judges of the second class which include the judges located in the capitals of the provinces and a few other important towns were put in the ninth category which, prior to the enactment of the present law was the lowest category and consequently included the least important judges of the rank above municipal judge. For the third class judges which include those in about 90 municipalities a new category, the tenth, was created. Municipal judges therefore have now a standing which they never had before. To add to their importance the salaries have been increased so that municipal judges of the first class now receive $4375 a year, those of the second class $3250, and the third class $2400.
It is believed that the system of appointment of municipal judges will practically remove them from political influence so far as their office is concerned.
Municipal judges of the third class or tenth category are appointed as the result of examinations given by a board composed of three [Page 72] judges of the Supreme Court and two judges of the Audiencia of Havana. Beginning with the present year examinations must be held every two years for enough persons to fill twice the number of vacancies. The candidates are graded on a scale of 100 and listed in the order of the percentage given them. Ten points are allowed for length of practice as a lawyer, ten for experience in the administration of justice, ten for standing in the University and merits of books published, and the remaining points for the merits of the examination. Appointments must be made by the President in the order the successful candidates appear on the list.
The municipal judges of all three classes are to be chosen in the manner above outlined in the present year to fill all the vacancies created by the law. For subsequent vacancies judges of the second class or ninth category are to be appointed by the President from lists of three judges of the third class chosen by the Judges of the Chamber of Administration of the Supreme Court. In like manner judges of the first class are to be appointed from lists of three judges of the ninth category.
By so strengthening the positions of the municipal judges, in addition to depriving the political members of their vote, political influence should now be reduced to a minimum in the municipal electoral boards.
iii. law of pardons
In studying the Cuban electoral situation, it developed that the penal provisions of the electoral law were practically ineffective due to two causes: (1) a failure to prosecute political offenders and (2) the readiness of the executive to pardon, and Congress to grant amnesty to political offenders. In addition to this there was noticed a marked increase in the number of pardons for offenses in general granted as the time for election approached, presumably for political purposes. As these facts are admitted and the danger in allowing unlimited pardoning power in the President is generally recognized and conceded, no testimony on this point was reduced to writing or included in this report.
Nothing could be done to limit the power of Congress to grant amnesties as its power is granted by the tenth paragraph of Article 57  of the constitution. It was provided in the Electoral Code, however, that an amnesty granted to an offender who had penal antecedents, as defined in Art. 57  of the Code, would not qualify him to exercise any office created by the code, so that now an amnesty to have that effect must, when granted by Congress, specifically state so. The power of the president, however, is limited by Paragraph 15 of Art. 65  of the Constitution, which provides “He shall have the right to pardon criminals in accordance [Page 73] with the provisions of the law, except public officers, who may have been convicted of crimes committed in the performance of their duties.”
Any doubt as to the power of the President to pardon election officers has been effectively removed, as pointed out in another part of this report, by providing specifically that they shall be regarded [as] public officers within the meaning of the paragraph of Article 65  of the constitution above quoted. There remained, however, the great number of offenders outside this class, the pardoning of whom tends to impair the efficiency of electoral administration.
In order to control and regulate the power of the President, I recommended and Congress passed a law providing for a thorough investigation of the merits of applications for pardons, the inclusion in the decree of all the essential facts of the report on the investigation, and the publication of all decrees in a manner which will advise the public of the number of pardons granted and the circumstances of the cases.
Petitions for pardons must be addressed to the President through the sentencing court and the Secretary of Justice and be accompanied by a report from the Chief of the Penal Institution in which the convict is serving sentence, with regard to his conduct. A report must also be made by the sentencing court after consulting the prosecuting attorney and the injured party, if there be one. This report must include the age, conjugal state and profession of the convict, his fortune, his character and past record, together with the aggravating or extenuating circumstances of the crime, the length of time the convict had been confined awaiting sentence, the portion of the sentence served, whether or not he has shown evidences of repentance, whether the crime has prejudiced the rights of a third party, and any other data which might tend toward a better understanding of the facts. The report is required to conclude with the recommendation of the proper action to be taken. All of the papers are required to pass through the Secretary of Justice to the President.
In order to grant an absolute pardon it must be shown that the convict has either satisfied all pecuniary obligations in connection with his conviction or that he is insolvent, that he has completed at least one-fourth of his term and that he satisfies certain other requirements with regard to age, dependency or character.
The decree of pardon must contain:
- The serial number of the pardon indicating the number of previous pardons granted in the same year.
- A copy of the facts proved and the final sentence.
- A statement of the portion of the sentence completed, where, and when the convict commenced to serve sentence.
- A statement of the penal conduct of the offender.
- The report of the sentencing court.
- A statement as to whether the injured party, if any, opposed the granting of the pardon.
- The names of the persons recommending the pardon, if any.
- Date of previous petitions denied.
- Date and circumstances of any previous pardon granted.
- Statement of the circumstances which in the judgment of the Secretary of Justice or Council of Secretaries warrant the granting of the pardon.
- A recital as to whether the requirements of the law have been complied with.
- A statement that the pardon is granted and its class and conditions.
It is provided that decrees shall be published in the Official Gazette, in the numerical order of their issue, and that they shall not be effective until three days after their publication.
The sentencing court is required to execute the pardon, but only if all the provisions of the law have been complied with.
No pardon may be granted if an application has been acted on within the previous six months for the same or other offense.
If the law is complied with, it should be a guarantee that convicts are pardoned on their merits and not as political favor, or in order to permit them to commit electoral offenses for the benefit of the party in power.
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Suggestions for the Information of the American Minister
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In the light of these legal principles and historical facts I venture to suggest a measure of supervision over electoral administration by our Legation. Having shown that parity of elections is the controlling factor in the maintenance of stable government, can not the Minister, by close application, keep in touch with the electoral administration and, without intermeddling or giving offense to the Cuban Government call the attention of that Government to any evasion or violation of the new Electoral Code at the time and advise the authorities to correct the evils in their incipiency? I think he may and, in accordance with this view, I venture to suggest further that the Minister’s attention be especially directed to the following basic principles, incorporated in the new Code, which I consider of vital importance in the just administration of the Law:
- The reorganization of political parties from the bottom
- Wide publicity should be given to the elections called for the purpose of electing barrio delegates to municipal assemblies.
- All adherents of the various political parties should be encouraged to turn out and actively participate in these elections.
- It should be fully understood that new barrio elections must be held prior to every general election for the purpose of selecting a new set of barrio delegates which will constitute the new municipal assembly.
- A wholesome public conscience in favor of honest elections must have its origin in the barrios.
- In the organization of municipal, provincial and national assemblies, the number of ex-officio delegates should not be increased beyond that fixed by law so as to again place the control in the hands of the office-holders. It will not be difficult for the Minister to obtain accurate information in this respect.
- The constitution of the permanent electoral boards, in respect of the voting membership, is specifically determined in the new Code. The position of the political members are not permanent in character. In view of the fact that no elector “with a criminal record “is eligible for membership on any board, the Minister should keep himself fully advised as to the previous records of such members. The college boards being so numerous and of so much importance the Minister should keep in close touch with the process of the selection of the members and especially that part relating to the publication of the names of the entire personnel of each college board.
- After the permanent electoral registers have been prepared from the data obtained from the schedules of the house-to-house enumerators, the process of keeping them up-to-date by means of inclusions and exclusions will be again used, I fear, for the commission of frauds on a large scale unless strict supervision over the boards is exercised. There will be available for the information of the Minister on the publication of the population census, the population of each municipality at the beginning of the year of 1920 and the number of qualified electors therein, as well as the percentage of the latter to the former. The elections of 1920 will be held on November 1 of that year and there should be published in the Official Gazette at least eighty days before that election the exact number of inscribed electors in each municipality. From this information the percentage of increases in the number of inscribed electors over that shown by the population census can be readily ascertained. Should these increases be excessive, the course to be pursued by the provincial electoral boards is clearly marked out in the Code. It is upon this branch of the electoral administration that the Minister’s work can be most effective. Should he find from an examination of the Official Gazette that any municipal electoral board had padded the electoral registers, ample opportunity is afforded him to make the proper representation to the Government to have the electoral registers corrected. The importance of this matter cannot be over [Page 76] estimated and the Minister should certainly spare no effort in preventing the registration of fictitious names.
- Heretofore large numbers of inscribed electors have been assigned to each college board in many municipalities, which resulted in the commission of frauds on a large scale. Under the new Code the electors must be assigned to the colleges subsequent to the close of the registration period. The corresponding provincial electoral board is required to publish in the official organ of the Province the exact number of inscribed electors, which may not be more than four-hundred, assigned to each college. By examining the various provincial organs, the Minister can readily ascertain whether the boards have complied with the law in this respect, and if not he may request attention “to notable omissions and errors in time to permit of remedial action.
- As the time for elections approached, the employees of the National, Provincial and Municipal Governments were greatly increased for political purposes resulting in the unnecessary expenditure of large sums of public money. This vicious practice is now expressly prohibited and the new Code requires the publication in the Official Gazette of all officers and employees at least thirty days before the promulgation of the election proclamation, and any resumption of this practice which discredits to such a great degree the electoral administration will, it is believed, furnish a proper occasion for the intervention of the Minister.
- Municipal Judges who are to be presidents of municipal electoral boards must be appointed by the President of the Republic of Cuba in the order the successful candidates appear on the eligible list as the result of an examination conducted by a board composed of three justices of the Supreme Court and two judges of the Audiencia of Havana. The list of successful candidates will be available for the information of the Minister in case any attempt is made for political purposes to evade the law touching the method of appointment.
- The penal provisions of the old law have been practically ineffective because (1) of the failure to prosecute political offenders, and (2) the readiness of the executive to pardon them. In addition to this there has been a marked increase in the number of pardons for offenses in general granted as the time for elections approached, evidently for political purposes. In order to control and regulate the power of the President in this respect, I recommended and Congress passed a law providing for a thorough investigation of the merits of applications for pardons. The decree of every pardon must now contain the information set forth in another part of this report and must be published in the Official Gazette before such decrees become [Page 77] effective. The Minister, by availing himself of the information contained in the Official Gazette, will be in a position to call the attention of the State Department and the Cuban Government to any abuses or attempted abuses of these provisions of the law of pardons.
An English copy of the new Electoral Code, marked Exhibit A,25 the testimony taken during the investigation, marked Exhibit B,25 and an Electoral Calendar, marked Exhibit C,25 are made integral parts of this report for the information of all concerned.
Major-General, U.S. Army
- Not printed.↩
- Reference should include art. 90.↩
- Incorrect reference; should read “art. 195”.↩
- Evidently refers to the fifth paragraph of art. 52.↩
- If other figures are correct, percentage should be 64.24.↩
- The omitted statements are summarized on p. 52.↩
- In enumeration infra, this figure is 190,982.↩
- If other figures are correct, percentage should be 39.9.↩
- The omitted statements are summarized on p. 47.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Not printed.↩