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The Vote is Cast

Yisrael Rutman

You may be too young to vote, but this article will give you a glimpse of what US voters will be doing on November 8

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

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N ovember 8, 2016 is a big day in the United States: Election Day, an event that only happens once every four years. Millions of Americans from New York to California and Alaska to Florida will cast their vote for president of the United States, as well as governors, senators, congressmen, and local leaders. (If “millions” is too vague for you, then, okay, in 2012, exactly 129,085,403 votes were cast for president.)">

Voting has really changed over the years, from a simple show of hands to the computerized systems we have nowadays. You may be too young to vote, but this article will give you a glimpse of what your parents will be doing behind that curtain in the voting booth. Older readers might learn something too…

Why All the Secrecy?
In the United States, voting is secret. No one is supposed to know who you vote for. Why all the secrecy? Are people ashamed of who they’re voting for? ">

Well, yes, sometimes they are. Like if they told their friends they’d vote for a different candidate. Or if they voted according to racial or religious prejudice. But the main reason isn’t shame; it’s fear. ">

Until 1888, Americans voted openly. In some places, they even announced their choices out loud. As a result, in those pre-curtain days, everybody knew who everyone was voting for, and this led to people being bribed, or threatened to vote a certain way — “or else.” Crooked politicians or gangsters would watch to make sure people voted “the right way.” ">

In 1888, Louisville, Kentucky adopted a secret ballot. They called it “the Australian ballot” because Australia had it first. By 1892, it had become standard procedure all over the United States. A person marked a box next to a candidate’s name on a card and dropped it into a sealed box, so nobody would know how he voted. ">

Ballot Problem

The secret ballot has its drawbacks, though. One of the undemocratic aspects of democracy is something called “ballot stuffing.” Candidates behind in votes would simply stuff the ballot boxes with more voting slips marked for them until they pulled ahead. Since the slips had no names on them, officials couldn’t tell if the slips in any box were legitimate votes, each placed by a different voter, or whether one person had dumped in 50 or 100 for his candidate. It’s a common problem. They have to be careful, though. For example, if there are more votes in the box than people who live in the district, it’s a giveaway of funny business.

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