AUGUST 19, 1960
NEW YORK—I have been emphasizing lately the importance, in our democracy, of making it possible for the greatest number of people to take part in their government through their vote.
So I was delighted to learn that people in New York City will be able to take literacy tests—a requirement for voting—in each of the boroughs. They will not have to trek from wherever they live to a central office in the Board of Education bulding in Brooklyn.
It seems to me, however, that setting up a single center for these tests in each borough is too meager a concession. Why is it not possible to establish such a center by each registration office in the nearest school? This would make it even more convenient to take the tests.
A letter to me made the suggestion that sample literacy tests might be published in the city's foreign-language newspapers so that those who, not being very familiar with English and might be nervous at taking the test, could study the type of question they might be asked and thereby approach the test with a greater assurance.
The writer of this letter also says she is often deprived of her privilege of voting because she has children whom she can't leave at home alone. She finds it difficult to keep the children with her in the long queue as it moves slowly in the voting place. Her husband works some distance away and the couple cannot arrange for one to be at home while the other votes.
Would it be possible for volunteers to be organized to baby-sit at certain hours on Election Day? Or for a space to be found in some building near the voting or registration place where volunteers could offer to entertain children while the parents registered or voted?
This woman correspondent would like to have Election Day declared a legal holiday, and I have often thought this would be a good idea. This cannot be done this year, so let's try to meet the need in some other way.
Now is the time to organize all of these things, and everyone interested in good government should be working now toward getting more people registered.
If there is a committee to study the necessity for a national fuel oils policy, I hope it will bring out the fact that the importation of crude and residual fuel oils is carried on by the big international importers, the importations from the Middle East and Venezuela are under severe restrictions and the amount they do import is probably helpful in the competition with domestic oil producers in that it tends to keep down the price of oil products to domestic consumers.
Where the coal industry is concerned, I am told that the United States' productivity is up to four times that of European producers'. We can actually ship coal to Antwerp, paying $10 a ton freight, at a lower price than is received there for Ruhr coal. This has brought about restrictions in Germany against the import of American coal. Yet, in spite of this, the U.S. exported more than 45 million tons of coal in 1959. This tonnage, however, has been reduced in the last two years.
It seems to me that this investigation might come up with the recommendation that the U.S. should exert pressure on foreign governments to remove restrictions on coal from this country and offer, as an inducement, to maintain a relatively free import policy on competing fuels being shipped into this country. This would benefit everybody concerned.
In my next column, I hope to go a little further into the question of the West Virginia coal mining situation.