Harvard’s Ben Adida on Vote By Mail and the Secret Ballot


I just ran accross a great editorial on Benlog.com , which I read somewhat regularly now. Ben’s a postdoc at Harvard who admits to reading No Vote By Mail occasionally. Anyway, his recent analysis of the fight over the secret ballots at the union level and the fight over the secret ballot in absentee and vote-by mail schemes is great…. So I’m going to quote it at length:

[Link To Full Article at Benlog.com]

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.

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2 Responses

  1. […] by Gentry on July 11th, 2007 Ben Adida, from Benlog, a Harvard postdoc in cryptography, has written lately of the lack of a secret ballot in vote-by mail systems. But apparently the King County Council didn’t get the memo, and issued this press […]

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