Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In 1920 Land and Labor Party Called for Vote by Mail

Vote by mail and equality for women
(detail, January 30th, 1920)
With the mess in Iowa, perhaps we will see renewed calls for national vote by mail as a superior low-tech, resilient, and secure method for voting.

"A mess" - Oregonian front page today
Without going too deep, the Oregon Secretary of State's office and other sources take the history of vote by mail only back to the 1980s.

But in what really is only a footnote in Oregon political history, a little-known and little-lasting attempt at a third party called for voting by mail exactly 100 years ago! Maybe this is known to specialists, but it seems to be little known in more popular histories of vote-by-mail.

January 29th, 1920
January 30th, 1920
The Land and Labor Party here was associated with the Non-partisan League of North Dakota and Arthur Townley. Townley had roots in the socialist movement and was oriented towards rural issues and organizing farmers rather than to more urban and manufacturing issues.

The project was at first serious enough to occasion a long editorial.

Long editorial (there is more), January 31st, 1920
It says "The demand for voting by mail places a premium on lazyness" and goes on with minor red baiting to say "the team is expected by the organizers to pull state socialism to victory."

It noted the tensions between "labor and farm interests," and later in March at least one Grange took pains to distance themselves.

March 18th, 1920
The next day another editorial criticized the "siren song of socialistic redemption."

The rhetoric of "invasion" and "dictatorship" - March 19th, 1920
The platform today does not read so wildly, though abolishing the Senate and public ownership of utilities and natural resources are still very much outside the Overton window.

The party platform in Oregon Voter
February 14th, 1920

From the platform:
Therefore, in order to promote the welfare and happiness of our State and to restore uniform justice and equal opportunity to all, we demand as a minimum, that the following changes and additions be immediately enacted and put in force:

1. The extension of the direct primary to the initiative, the referendum and the recall.
2. The privilege of voting by mail together with universal registration.
3. The abolition of the State Senate.
4. The public ownership of all public utilities and natural resources.
5. The formation of a department of Agriculture and Industry, and the creation of a fiscal department, whose function shall be the creation of a state marketing system, a state bank and such other industrial activities as may be necessary and desirable.
6. The removal of all unjust taxes from productive industry and the substitution therefor of a more equitable method of taxation.
7. Proportional representation on all elective legislative bodies.
8. That the public schools be placed upon a real democratic basis by making school boards representative through proportional representation and that the object of the schools be to teach democracy rather than to train children merely to be servers of others for profit.
9. We hereby declare for the economic and industrial equality of women together with special protection for the mothers of our future citizens.
The group disappears from the news in the second half of 1920 and appears to be invisible thereafter. I assume they did not attract numbers and petered out. So while they remain a footnote only, it is interesting to see the call for vote by mail so early, a full century ago!

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