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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 39   View pdf image
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entrusted. Still he had no objection to the adop-
tion of any rule by which the evil complained of
might be prevented.
In reply to what had been said of the hardship
upon a man who had removed into another ward,
and was refused the right to vote, not having re-
sided therein the required time, he stated that a
much greater hardship was that upon a voter re-
moving from one county in a Congressional dis-
trict where he had resided twelve months, into
another county of the same Congressional dis-
trict where he may have. reaided above five
months before the election, and yet, under the
Constitution of our State, he would not be en-
titled to vote. But these, were of those cases of
individual hardships which must occur under the
operation of every general rule. The Congress-
ional candidate in a ward may bo one in whose
success great interest might be felt in that ward,
yet the election of that candidate might be de-
feated by other votes coming over from the city.
Modes may be suggested by which the difficulties
in Howard District and Anne Arundel, which are
in the same condition as Baltimore, might be ob-
viated; but under the Constitution, as it now
stands, the remedy would be impossible, as the
names are all on one ticket and are voted for by
every qualified voter where the election is held.
Mr. GWINN begged to call the attention of the
gentleman from Anne Arundel to the fact that
the second City Ordinance says, that no man shall
vote out of the ward in which he resides; and
if he does, he is liable to a penalty. The last
law of the Legislature makes this applicable to
Congressional elections.
Mr. DORSEY resumed. We are here acting on
the Constitution. It is the Constitution only
which determines who shall have the right to
vote. If the right is possessed by virtue of a
provision in the Constitution, it cannot be chang-
ed by an ordinance of the Corporation of the
City of Baltimore, or even by an Act of the Le-
gislature, How then does this change the con-
dition of things ? Baltimore will have no reason
to complain if a similar principle which she has
introduced into her wards, should be introduced
by the Convention into the State.
Mr. BOWIE. The Constitution is silent as to
to the places where the votes shall be cast. At
one time they were cast at the county town.
Since that time. the State had been laid out in
Election Districts, and the people voted in those
districts. He held the law by which this had
been done to be constitutional.
Mr. DORSEY resuming. If these changes
had been made by asingle law, the law is uncon-
stitutional. As regards constitutional qualifica-
tions, the law can impose no restrictions different
from those in the Constitution, The changes
made in the qualifications of voters by an act of
the Legislature are unconstitutional, if it re-
lates to the term of residence, an hour is equal to
a night. He agreed with the gentleman from
Baltimore county, that the fact of residence is
not established by mere personal presence for a
night, but by acts and intentions showing such
residence. If a laborer from one county, worked
there, and went to his home in another county
on Saturday night, he was entitled to vote in the
county where his home is. We must judge of
residence by acts and declarations of the party
in relation thereto. He was in favor of a thirty
days' residence, not merely a sojourning. If one
ward choose to abandon an election or to let it
go by default, and should send its voters into an-
other ward, we ought to set a guard upon that
practice. The residence of six months in the
county is designated that the voters may know
the fitness of the candidates and to prevent frauds.
He thought some residence necessary; it may be.
thirty days or more.
Mr. GWINN expressed a hope that the gentle-
man would turn to the second ordinance of the city
of Baltimore, which he presumed the learned
gentleman had studied.
Mr. DORSEY resumed. He did not look to
the ordinance. He looked to higher authority.
He took it for granted that the gentleman who
declared that a citizen of Baltimore had a right
to vote in any ward, had looked to the act of As-
sembly. It was provided in the charter which
prescribes the mode of the election, that each
ward should send one member to the first, and
two to the second branch of the City Council,
and that each candidate must be a resident of the
ward in which he is voted for, and from this it has
been inferred that voters must also be residents
of the ward, but such inference is not authoriz-
ed. He asked the gentleman to read the law.
Mr. GWINN read the city ordinance.
Mr. DORSEY. If the ordinance was contra-
ry to the Constitution it was null. The voters
of Baltimore city, as to Congressional elections,
derive their right from the Constitution. City
ordinances cannot change it. The gentleman
from Baltimore said it was necessary that a vot-
er should sleep in the ward the night before the
election. This does not of itself constitute resi-
dence, We ought to require something more
than mere sleeping in the ward.
Mr. GWINN here read the act of assembly, ex-
tending the ordinances of Baltimore as to the ci-
ty elections to the counties. Appeals had been
made, and had gone to the judicial tribunals, yet
this law had never been pronounced unconstitu-
Mr. DORSEY expressed a doubt whether the
Legislature had a right to establish as aresidence
in respect to a Congressional election, the mere
fact of a man sleeping one night in a county. If
this was to be considered a residence, it appear-
ed to him to be the more incumbent on the Con-
vention to exercise a revisory power. He insis-
ted that the city authorities had no power, and
that the extent of the power of the Legislature
was the extension of the number of election dis-
tricts from sixteen to twenty. No gentleman
would maintain that the fixing of a rule of resi-
dence should be left to the authorities of the city
of Baltimore. Adopt this principle, and it would
not be worth while to impose any restrictions
as to members of Congress; you may as well
throw all restrictions off, and leave the ballot
box open to every one. But it is the duty of this
Convention to fix such principle? as will regu-
late future elections,

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 39   View pdf image
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