An Object Lesson in Referendums:
A Personal Letter from H ermon F. Titus:
Address to Comradesin the State of Washington and
Elsewhere— A Funny Story Which isTrue.
by H ermon F. T itus
Published in rAeSoc/a//st [Toledo], whole no. 241 (May 6, 1905), pg. 3.
Toledo, Ohio, May 4th, 1905.
To the members of the Socialist Party
in the state of Washington.
Youarecalled upon byyourStateCommitteeto
vote upon a referendum involving me. That is my ex-
cuse for writing this letter.
I lived in Seattlefor 13 years and was identified
with the Socialist Party for the last 5 years. Since Au-
gust 1900, 1 was the editor of TheSocialii. I think it
true to say that during that five years no man in the
state has been more actively and publicly and con-
stantly working for the cause of Socialism.
D uring all that five years no one ever brought a
"charge" against me of any kind. Yet now, two days
before I left the state to reestablish T he Soda//st in the
East, when everybody had known for a month the very
day I was to leave, official "charges^' were presented to
the City Central Committee of Local Seattle against
theBranch of which I was a member and against my-
I have no hesitation in saying that the object of
these "charges^' was to prejudice the comrades in the
East against me in advance. "Charges^' would sound
big, ^en if they amounted to nothing in themselves.
Comradesin the East, it was reasoned, would be sure
to think there must be some fire where there was the
smoke of "charges."
I have some bitter personal enemies in the party
in Seattle, some through jealousy of my prominence
in party affairs, somethrough exposureof their crook-
edness. Asyou know, TheSodaliSt has always exposed
schemers and fought every middle class tendency in
These personal enemies, at least one of whom
years ago took an oath to driveT itus out of the party
were furious at the prospect of my leaving Washing-
ton with honor and entering a wider field in the East.
H ence, these "charges^' were brought out at the
last minute, when it was known I could not be present
to defend myself. I n fact, I have never been served a
copy of these charges to this day nor notified in any
way to be present or offer evidence in my own behalf,
though I have been formally "tried" before two com-
T heTriviality of the C harges.
But it isof littleconsequencewhether I could be
present or not. The so-called charges are so utterly
trivial and baseless that I am perfectly willing anyone
anywhere should be the judge, provided he is not my
The State Committee, which has just sent the
matter to you for a referendum vote, was composed of
six members, three of whom are my personal enemies
or their representatives. One of them drew up and
signed the charges themselves, yet acted as one of the
judges. You could hardly expect the very men who
brought the charges to vote for their dismissal.
After a long trial before the C ity C entral C om-
Titus An Object Le3S)n in Referendums[M ay 4, 1905]
mittee of Seattle, the charges were dismissed by a vote
of 17 to 12, the whole twelve negative votes coming
from Central Branch, which brought the charges. No
fair minded jury could cometo any other conclusion,
and it is quite to my advantage that everyone who has
heard rumors of these charges, should now have a
chance to see for themselves what th^ amount to.
All Simmered Down to One.
The only "charge" that is now before you for
vote is that of a "Fraudulent Ballot."
The other charges about Pike Street Branch
opening referendum votes illegally, were too absurd to
be pressed. Yet it is well enough to let you know just
what they meant. You will seewhat technical and hair-
splitting distinctions were lugged out as the basis of
Pike Street Branch has in its bylaws a provision
requiring that each referendum ballot shall be sealed
by the voter and not opened till the Branch in public
meeting is ready to count it. I introduced this provi-
sion myself in order to prevent any committee from
tampering with the ballots. It isa provision found al-
most nowhere else so far as I know.
Now Pike Street had two referendum votes out
Somecomrades, in order to save trouble and expense,
sealed up their votes on both referendumsin oneen-
velopeand sent them to thesecretary W hen theBranch
met to count thefirst referendum sent out, they opened
all the envelopes, not knowing that they contained two
ballots. But the were so scrupulous that they voted
not to look at thesecond enclosed ballots, but at once
sealed them up in an envelope by themselves and they
were neither seen nor counted till the time allotted for
Yet thisvery strictness of bylawsand thisconsci-
entious observance of their spirit, after an unwitting
and unavoidable violation of a part of their letter, was
made the basis of about half the "charges^' presented
against me and Pike Street Branch.
That "Fraudulent Ballot."
The words "Fraudulent Ballot" sound wicked.
But I ask you to judge for yourselves how absolutely
without foundation they are in this instance.
In order that all may see, I have had an ©(act
copy made by photographic process. Also an ©(act copy
of a circular sent out two days before the littleslip was
The Exact C ircumstances.
A referendum was being voted on by Local Se-
attle to introduce new bylaws. Thechief object aimed
at was to do away with theBranch system of organiza-
tion in Seattle, and go back to one central body I was
strongly opposed to this change, and so was Pike Street
Branch. We worked hard to defeat the proposed new
bylaws. We sent out circulars to all members telling
them why they should vote against them. The advo-
cates of the new bylaws also sent out circulars. The
wholeLocal was discussing the question, pro and con,
as was proper.
Wesucceeded in convincing somecomradeswho
had already sent in their ballots that they had voted
wrong. T hey had voted too soon, before th^ had heard
both sides. They had a perfect right to change their
votes, as anyone has, before the time has expired for
voting. We sent out our last circular on Monday Jan.
9  as the vote closed on Saturday, the 14th. The
facsimile of this circular is given herewith. In it you
will seeweurge comrades to get new ballots and change
This was on M onday. We suddenly discovered
thatnoballotscould befound.Theofficial ballots had
been prepared by one man and distributed by him to
the secretaries of the different branches. W hen these
secretaries went to him for new ballots, they could not
be had. N o one knew where they were, though at least
150 surplus ballots had been printed and were after-
wards found, when the voting was all over.
Underthesecircumstances, what wasa comrade
who wanted to change his vote to do?The only way
was to write out his statement and send it in. This is
considerabletroubleand in order to make it easier and
to get all thevotespossibleagainst the proposed new
bylaws, I had printed ©(actly what such a comrade
would naturally write— wanting to change his vote,
or even to vote for thefirst time, and having no regu-
lar ballot. I distributed these to every comrade I
thought likely to change hisvote and gave him copies
Titus An Ob/ert Lesson in R^erendums[M ay4, 1905]
of our circulars at the same time.
And that isall.That isall anybody claims that I
did. I plead guilty I should do it again under the same
circumstances. I believe it to have been, not only no
offense, but my duty under thecircumstances, to pro-
vide comrades deprived of regular ballots by some-
body's intention or blunder, with an opportunity to
express their will on a referendum vote.
No Deception Practiced.
There was no possibility of any comrade being
deceived by this little ballot. Itsayson its face, "I can-
not get a regular ballot," and so certainly does not pre-
tend to be a "regular ballot."
It tells exactly what it standsfor. It says, "I wish
to vote against the proposed new bylaws abolishing
That is more than the original ballot itself in-
formed the voter. It was prepared by one man, who
was strongly in favor of the change, and it was well
calculated to mislead the voter. Several comrades, not
residing in the city, wrote in before voting to know if
the Local had already abolished Branches. The first
principle of any motion, by referendum or in open
meeting, is that every voter shall understand what he
is voting about. This referendum ballot was so pre-
pared that a voter could most easily misunderstand.
The little form which I sent out to be used in
place of the missing regular ballots had nothing mis-
leading about it. It stated ©(actly what it was for.
Three things were stated: First. Itwasavoteon
a referendum of Local Seattle. Second. It was a vote
against the proposed new bylawsabolishing Branches.
Third. It was used because the voter could not get a
Is there anything "Fraudulent" about that? Was
it not all open and above board and aimed to allow
the voter to express his will on the pending referen-
I submit I am astonished that my enemies have
shown so little sense as to allow this issue to be sent
broadcast as the worst they can find against me.They
must have counted on the comrades at large having
no sen seat all.
Or it is possible that th^ count on your not
voting because you don't think you understand the
case well enough to vote. They will hustle together all
the votes of Central Branch in Seattle. My personal
enemieswill have someinfluencein two orthreeother
places around the state. T h^ may be counting on your
indifference and failure to vote, possibly your disgust
at having what appears a Seattle quarrel thrust upon
you for decision.
I hope that you will disappoint them and vote.
You will have sent you a copy of the original ballot,
my slip of a ballot, the "charges," and the decision of
the City Central Committee exonerating me. It will
make quite a mass of stuff to go through. But this
letter may help you to see what it all meansand enable
you to vote intelligently
For the sake of the comrades in other states, I
am publishing thedocuments named, except theorigi-
nal ballot, which I have no copy of and which is not
Beforedosing, I wish to add a few considerations
on thetaking of referendums, which constitute so large
a part of Socialist procedure.
The same general rules hold as in the actual
meeting, that is, the ordinary rules of parliamentary
First. A motion mustcomefrom the audience,
not from the chairman. In a referendum, a committee
or a secretary occupies the position of chairman only
The chairman has no choice but to putthemotion, if
it is not unconstitutional.
Second. Thechairman should be absolutely im-
partial, seeking only to give the assembly an opportu-
nity to express its will. That isthesoleend of all votes,
to find out the deli berate will of the assembly
A committee or secretary in conducting a refer-
endum should be guided by the same rule. That is the
reason no comment goes with the referendum.
Third. The motion should be clearly stated, so
that every voter clearly understands what he is to vote
on. So a referendum should be stated in such unmis-
takable language that no voter can misunderstand it.
Any obscurity or hiding of its full intent violates the
Titus An Object Less)n in R^erendums[M ay 4, 1905]
Fourth. Full discussion should be allowed to
both sides. In a referendum this can only be accom-
plished by slow process, as in the party press or by
circulars or correspondence. W ithout such discussion,
a referendum may be a very stupid affair, nobody re-
ally knowing enough of the subject to vote on it, yet
being obliged to vote.
Fifth. Everyone entitled to vote should havehis
chance to vote and no technicality should debar him.
If he is dumb, he can express his will by lifting his
hand.Theintent of the voter is always the guide. So
in a referendum, it is not essential that any particular
form of paper be used, provided the voter makes clear
how he wants to vote on the ©(act question at issue.
Sixth. T he vote should be counted as cast. To
insure this, the same conditions should prevail, as far
as practicable, as in the count of a public assembly
The chairman's count is subject to the inspection of
the assembly itself.
So in a referendum, the counting should never
be left to a small committee, especially if it is all on
one side. Just as in the appointment of tellers to count
the votes in an assembly a chairman names one from
both sides, so in a referendum count, representatives
of both sides should take part in the count.
Democracy has a safeguard in the referendum
only provided it is conducted in afair manner. Other-
wise, it is a farce and may become an instrument to
defeat D emocracy.
Socialists need to learn just how to take referen-
dum votes, establishing the most scrupulous safeguards
and precedents, in order to provide for the future of
The main rule is: To find out the will of the
majority after full deliberation and discussion.
H&-mon F. Titus.
By Central Branch, Local Seattle,
to the C ity C entral C ommittee,
Sunday, Feb. 19, 1905,
and Immediately Tabled.
1/1/hereasComradeH .F.Titus, on or about Janu-
ary 10th , had a referendum ballot printed and
circulated in direct violation of Art. 5, Sees, land 4 of
the Local Constitution of Seattle, which reads:
Sec. 1 . The affairs of the Local shall be managed by
the City Central Committee.
Sec. 4. That the City Central Committee shall submit
all referendum votes and without comment when ordered
to do so
1/1/ hereas ComradeTitusdid haveprinted on said
ballot, "Referendum Local Seattle Socialist Party,"
thereby usurping the authority conferred on the City
Central Committee by the membership of the party
and in direct violation of the Local Constitution; and
whereas the statements contained in said referendum
were one-sided and misleading, thereby tending to
confound the expression of the voters and disrupting
the organization, and
Wliereas, the said ComradeTitus, with the aid
of the Pike Street Branch, of which he is a member,
did knowingly violate Act 4 of the Constitution of
said Branch, which reads as follows:
Referendum ballots shall be signed and sealed by the
member voting, and not opened until they are counted at a
regular meeting of the Branch, instructions covering these
last points shall be placed on the ballot.
Wliereas, two weeks prior to the final count of
referendum submitted by Local Seattle, D ec. 4th, '04,
made returnable] an. 15th, '05, a part of the votes on
theabovereferendum wasbroken open duringameet-
ingoftheBranch, and these sameballotswere returned
as official in thefinal count; and whereas the Pike Street
Branch did pay for the printing of said referendum
ballot after the statement made by C omradeT itus on
the floor during a meeting of the Branch that he had
caused thesaid Referendum Ballots to beprinted with-
out the authority of any kind but in the allied intent
Titus An Ob/ert Lesson in R^erendums[M ay4, 1905]
of the Branch, and
Wtiereas, thesaid Pike Street Branch allowed the
counting of said fraudulent ballot as official, thereby
aiding and abetting said ComradeTitus in violation
of both theLocal and Branch Constitution, and usurp-
ing theauthority conferred on theC ity C entral C om-
mittee by the membership of Local Seattle, and
W hereas, Feb. 11th, 1905, at an adjourned meet-
ing of Pike Street Branch, while counting state refer-
endum on amendments to state constitution, two
members were allowed to withdraw their votes when
instructions on ballots stated that no votes should be
counted that were cast after Feb. 8th, 1905, thereby
causing a change in the result after the official time
foreclosing the ballot had expired. Therefore be it
Resolved, That Central Branch Local Seattle,
Socialist Party prefers charges against Comrade H .F.
Titus and the members of Pike Street Branch on the
counts herein specified.
CM. Param^ Rec. Sec.
M. Parsons^ Chairman.
Verdict on Charges.
Findings of City Central Committee,
Local Seattle, on Charges Against
H .F. Titus and Pike Street Branch
After Full Hearing of All Evidence,
Lasting Seven Hours,
Sunday, March 12,1905.
C ity C entral committee. Local Seattle, after hear-
ing evidence relating to charges preferred against H .F.
Titus and Pike Street Branch by Central Branch, find
the followi ng to be the true facts of the case:
First. H .F.Titusdidnotsubmit referendum vote
referred to in charges, but said vote was submitted by
Local Seattleeven according to the charges themselves,
"And whereas two weekspriorto the final count
of the referendum submitted by Local Seattle, D ecem-
ber 4, 1904," etc.
We find that on account of the refusal of City
Central Committee to provide sufficient number of
ballotsforPikeStreet Branch forsaid referendum, H .F.
Titus caused to beprinted and furnished to somemem-
bers of said branch who were not given ballots and a
few members of Central Branch slips containing the
following words: "Referendum, Local Seattle, SP— I
hereby vote against the proposed new bylaws abolish-
ing branches. I cannot procure a regular ballot and
this is my final vote." Name. Address. Branch. Date.
Wefind that Pike Street Branch recognized these
slips, four of which were signed and sent in, as the
evident intention of those signing them to vote against
the proposed bylaws and sent them with other returns
to the City Central Committee.
I n regard to the above we hereby hold that when-
ever officials of the party refuse to furnish ballots in a
referendum vote it is not only the right but the duty
of other members of the party to see that those de-
prived of ballots shall have some means of expressing
their wishes in the matter voted upon.
Second. Wefind that the bylaws submitted at
said referendum did abolish the Branches of Local Se-
attle and the statement to that effect on printed slips
above mentioned was not misleading.
Third. Wefind that H .F. Titus did not refer to
Titus An Object Less)n in R^erendums[M ay 4, 1905]
these slips as"referendum ballots^' and that hedid not
say that they "were printed in the allied intent of the
Branch," and also that the Branch did not pay for the
In regard to the charge that Pike Street Branch
broke open said referendum ballots before the proper
time, wefind that at the same time this Local referen-
dum was out. Pike Street Branch had a referendum
out calling for votes for officers of the Branch; that
some of its members enclosed votes on Local referen-
dum in same envelopes containing ballots for Branch
officers, and when these ballotswereopened theLocal
referendum votes were found inside; that in the pres-
ence of entire meeting said Local referendum ballots,
without being unfolded or examined in anyway were
securely sealed up and not examined until the proper
date for such action had arrived.
We direct that in future all members of Local
Seattle enclose votes on separate referendums in sepa-
rate envelopes properly labeled on outside.
Wealso criticize Central Branch, which allowed
a member not an official of the Branch to giveout and
collect ballots on same referendum, keeping them in a
careless and insecure manner and refusing for some
time to turn them over to Branch Secretary whose
duty it is to attend to all such work according to Ar-
ticle X, Section 1 of theLocal Bylaws, which reads as
follows: "Referendum votes shall be taken through
Branch Secretaries and the ballots signed and sealed
and sent to City Central Committee with returns."
Fifth, [sc] In regard to last charge of allowing
membersto withdraw voteswefind that thereisnoth-
ing in National, State, Local, or Branch constitution
prohibiting members from withdrawing signed bal-
lots before th^ are counted. T he instructions of the
state ballots according to the charges themselves sim-
ply prohibit the counting of any votes received after
J. P. Prentice
Secretary C C C , Local Seattle.
Seattle, Wash., M arch 12, 1905.
£cf/tecf by Tim D avenport
Published by 1000 Flowers Publishing Corvallis, OR, 2010. * Non-commerdal reproduction permitted.