May 6, 1939
Free Press straw vote will feature reelection
ONE of the liveliest political topics of the day, and one on which virtually everyone has an opinion, is the reelection of President Quezon. Advocated intermittently almost from the day Mr. Quezon took his oath of office, the reelection issue assumed formidable shape last week when Assemblyman Quintin Paredes openly sponsored it. The Philippines Herald whooped things up by advocating reelection in a front page editorial. Several assemblymen have prepared bills to amend the Constitution. And for the first time, President Quezon has remained significantly silent.
The national assembly, by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, may propose an amendment to the Constitution or call a convention for that purpose. Such an amendment must be approved by a majority of the votes cast at an election, at which the amendment is submitted to the people for ratification. It must also be submitted to the President of the United States for approval. If the latter approves the amendment or fails to disapprove it within six months from the time of its submission, the amendment shall take effect as part of the Constitution.
Feeling that the issue of reelecting President Quezon is a very vital one, and realizing that in the final analysis it is the Filipino people who must decide whether or not President Quezon will be reelected, the Free Press has decided to conduct a scientific, nationwide straw vote on this issue.
This weekend, 12,500 ballots will be mailed to responsible, property-owning citizens in every province in the Philippines. The ballots are apportioned among the provinces on the basis of the population of each province, as reported by the census taken this year. Due to the extra political strength of Manila, an additional 700 ballots are being distributed in the capital. The answers will be tabulated as soon as they are received and published in forthcoming issues of the Free Press.
On each ballot is the question: “Do you think the Philippine Constitution should be amended to permit the reelection of President Quezon?” Votes may be registered either as “Yes” or “No.” On each ballot will be typed the name of the province to which it is sent, but this is merely for the purpose of tabulating the final results by provinces. The vote will be a secret one and the voter will not sign his name. A stamped, self-addressed envelope accompanies each ballot, so that all the voter need do it indicate his opinion for or against the constitutional amendment to permit the reelection of President Quezon, place the ballot in the envelope and drop it in the mail. The Free Press will do the rest.
This will be the third big straw vote conducted by the Free Press, and with pardonable pride the Free Press can claim that its two previous polls turned out to be accurate forecasts of the people’s opinion.
The first truly nationwide straw vote on a large scale ever conducted in the Philippines was the Free Press poll on he Hare-Hawes-Cutting law, conducted in February and March of 1933. On that occasion, 10,000 ballots were mailed out and 65 percent of them were returned. Of the votes recorded, 56 percent opposed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting law. The first Free Press straw vote had accurately reflected public opinion.
Then, in August and September of 1937, shortly after President Quezon returned from Washington where he had flirted with the idea of independence in 1939, the Free Press sent out 12,500 ballots asking whether the people favored or opposed shortening the transition period. In this case, 67 percent of the ballots were returned. There was some raising of eyebrows when the final result showed 55 percent opposing and only 45 percent favoring the shortening of the transition period. Yet subsequent events showed that the Free Press poll had once more mirrored public opinion. Today virtually no one favors a shorter transition period, and quicker independence would not be accepted in the Philippines unless it were accompanied by substantial economic concessions.
Thus, with the record of two successful straw votes behind it, the Free Press now makes its third effort to find out exactly what the people think about a vital public issue.
It should be recalled that the ballots on the reelection of President Quezon are not being mailed to every voter. That is not necessary, where ballots can be sent to representative voters. Nor are all Free Press subscribers to receive ballots. Nor all assemblymen. Nor all school teachers. The idea is to get enough typical citizens to be able to reflect public opinion in general. And that can be done with 10,000 ballots as well as with 1,000,000. In fact, the famed Gallup polls in the United States “sample” public opinion by asking their questions of only 10,000 people (out of 130,000,000) and yet because those questioned are scientifically weighted, the Gallup polls have established the remarkable record of repeatedly forecasting election results with an allowable error of only three percent.
“Should the Constitution of the Philippines be amended to permit the reelection of President Quezon?”
That is the vital question at issue in the Philippines today, and that is the question which the Free Press is asking 12,500 responsible citizens to answer. Their opinions will be reported in the forthcoming issues.