The secrecy of voting … and why the secret ballot should be abolished.


Before Matt Nash recounts his difficulty in casting a secret ballot in the year 2015, let’s begin by considering the origins of this institution.

Did you know that Louisville was a pacesetter?

Abolish the Secret Ballot, by Sasha Issenberg (The Atlantic)

For the United States’ first century, Americans elected their leaders in full view of their neighbors, gathering on courthouse steps to announce their votes orally or hand a distinctive preprinted ballot or unfolded marked paper to a clerk. Such a public process made elections ripe for bribes and threats, although the scene around American polling places never matched Australia’s, where a population of criminals and goldbugs made electoral intimidation something of a democratic pastime. To end such shenanigans, each of Australia’s colonies began shifting to a secret ballot during the 1850s, and in 1872 England followed suit.

A decade and a half later, the reform crossed the Atlantic. Louisville, Kentucky, enacted a so-called Australian ballot in 1888 …

Given Floyd County’s propensity for gazing longingly into the rear view mirror, the surprising thing is that we ever accepted the ballot’s secrecy in the first place, but we did. Take it away, Matt.

NASH: The secrecy of voting, by Matt Nash (Morris Trucking Fetish Daily)

 … After the third failed attempt, a man came over and took my ballot and started to review the choices that I had made to see if I had “voted wrong.” I am not exactly sure what would happen if I would had actually voted wrong, but I would hope that the first machine would have forced me to correct the vote before it printed out my receipt. I can’t imagine that it would print out a ballot that showed I had voted for two candidates in a race where I was only allowed to pick one.

At that point, my wife was ready to put hers through the machine when someone said we should compare the two ballots. This is when someone from across the room yelled “secret ballot.”

I started to laugh because two workers already had access to who I voted for and one of them actually looked over it. I said I didn’t mind if we compared, and they were close to identical, and then her ballot went straight through the machine without any issues.