Again, the Secret Ballot

Salon talks about the undervote situation in Sarasota. In their “featured letters,” one reader, self-nicknamed “the voice of reason,” says:

If we need to use computers to vote, why can’t there be a double receipt system? One receipt goes into the ballot box, voter gets to keep the other as a record of his vote. If anyone purports to have a reason why this can’t be done, my reply would be that I get a receipt when I buy even the lowliest of chewing gum. The store keeps a copy, and I walk with a copy. Not too complex for almost every commercial transaction in America, not too complex for democracy.

I am continually surprised that so many people are so quick to dismiss the secret ballot. You can’t get a receipt to take home, because you would then be able to prove your vote and thus be coerced. This is a serious issue.

It’s also yet more proof that, if the standard for creating a voting system is “everyone should understand it,” then we’re already in deep trouble, since so many people don’t seem to understand the point of the secret ballot, even after having taken the time to think and write a letter. The standard cannot be “everyone should understand it,” rather it should be “everyone should be able to turn to someone they trust who understands it.”

But back to the secret ballot for a second. 44% of Californians voted by mail this past election. Talk about weakening the secret-ballot. Absentee voting by mail is, by far, the biggest security issue we have with elections today.