It’s interesting how Voting often comes up in so many discussions, and how often folks believe that Voting is a well established, stable process that is usually fair, except for those pesky touchscreen voting machines that are corrupting a process that has long been well managed. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like unverified touchscreen voting machines.)
It is, for example, “common knowledge” that Hitler was “democratically elected”, and this example is sometimes used in cocktail party conversation to indicate that democracy can lead to totalitarianism. What is less well known is that, in many such cases, democracy is, in fact, first corrupted to some degree. I recently came upon the 1938 German ballot, which you can see for yourself here on Wikipedia. The ballot asks:
Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Empire that was enacted on 13 March 1938, and do you vote for the party of our leader Adolf Hitler?
The large circle says “yes”, while the comparatively tiny circle next to it says “no.” Democracy in action, eh? Now, Hitler initially came to power in 1933, and did have upwards of 30% of the vote at that time, so this isn’t exactly the reason why Hitler came to power. But it’s still interesting to note!
And on a completely different note (this juxtaposition is only about interesting election tidbits), Bob Gibbons, head of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, argues in a Boston Globe editorial, that a new bill going through Congress and another going through the Massachusetts House threaten the secret ballot of Union elections, thus coercing employees to vote for a particular Union who may not, in the end, truly represent the employees. This is fascinating, but it is especially interesting to see Bob begin with:
We wouldn’t think about holding an election for any office, from school committee to president of the United States, without the protection of a secret ballot.
Well…… we only started thinking about it in 1892, really, which is important to note. And because of the recent evolution of state election laws, we do have 40+% of Californians, 50+% of Washingtonians, and 100% of Oregonians voting by mail, which does amount, in fact, to “holding an election without the protection of a secret ballot.”
Of course, I’m not arguing against the Secret Ballot. I think it’s a wonderful and necessary thing. But we need to be aware that there’s a serious effort in this country to undermine the secret ballot, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The secret ballot is not so natural anymore. We need to realize how crazy this mail-in voting tendency is becoming, and how dramatically bad the situation may get if we don’t stop for a moment to think about what happens when your spouse, your parent, your church, your union, your office, can ask you how you voted, lean over your shoulder and check, organize some kind of “ballot filling-out party”, or find some other subtle way to coerce you.
The secret ballot is a crucial piece of our democracy, and too many people, not just the unions, have forgotten it.