Rejection by Senate of Proposal to Abolish the Electoral College Blamed on Black, Jewish Presure

Sen. Birch Bayh (D. Ind.) said today that the Senate’s rejection of his constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and elect Presidents and Vice Presidents by popular vote means the issue will not be renewed at least in this session of Congress.

Commenting following yesterday’s decisive defeat of his proposal which he first introduced in 1966, Bayh said the Senate vote was heavily influenced by pressure from the Urban League and the American Jewish Congress. He specifically mentioned Vernon Jordan, the League’s executive director, and Howard Squadron, president of the AJCongress. They had testified against the measure in hearings a month ago held by Bayh’s Senate subcommittee.

“They put a great deal of pressure on some Senators,” a spokesman for Bayh reported the Senator as saying. Bayh, who has been fighting for the measure for 13 years, mustered 51 votes while 48 opposed it. A constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate to be adopted. It thus lost by 16 votes. This was the first time the Senate had voted on the proposed amendment. It previously was blocked by filibusters.

Five of the Senate’s Jewish members voted for the amendment and several spoke ardently in its favor. Approving it were Sens. Carl Levin (D. Mich.), Howard Metzenbaum (D. Ohio), Abraham Ribicoff (D. Conn.), Edward Zorinsky (D. Neb.) and Jacob K. Javits (R. NY). Opposing were Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) and Richard Stone (D. Fla.). In the last hours of the debate preceding the vote that lasted two days, Levin declared “This country desperately needs a sense of unity.” Metzenbaum and Javits previously spoke for it.

CHARGES MISTAKEN BELIEF

In his post mortem discussion of the results, Bayh complimented Javits and Ribicoff for “hanging tough under a great deal of pressure” from groups which he said “mistakenly believe they have an advantage under the Electoral College.”

The debate was marked by numerous quotations from Blacks and Jews on both sides of the issue, but particularly in opposition to the amendment. Among the presentations were those of the late Alexander M. Bickel of Yale Law School and the late Martin Diamond of Georgetown University. Diamond collapsed and died one minute after he had testified against the amendment July 22, 1977. An article by Will Maslow, the AJCongress counsel, in the monthly Jewish review, Mainstream, also was used by opponents of the amendment on the debate.

Statements from the NAACP, the Urban League, Jewish organizations and others stressed that minorities, including. Blacks, Jews and farmers would suffer under the amendment because it would have the effect of reducing the significance of their political power. Arguments by Jewish scholars included the need for Presidential candidates to consult all elements of the public on national policies.

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