Get Rid of the Secret Ballot

In America, we have a long tradition of the secret ballot. We all learn from Mrs. Pringle in eighth grade civics class that the secret ballot is very, very important. This is because, if we didn’t have a secret ballot, thousands and thousands of people would be intimidated into voting against their consciences, fearing they would be beaten up by mobs of marauding partisans for daring to vote against their favorite.

Of course, like most things you learn in eighth grade civics class, this is sheer hokum.

The real reason we have a secret ballot is that it invites tinkering and fraud by both the major parties, each feeling it is just a little more clever than the other and will steal a few more votes than its competitor. And there’s no way to check your vote, to be sure it was correctly recorded. Nope–you just have to trust those honest government officials that everything was done right.

Let’s get serious for a moment. People walk around our cities all the time wearing McCain or Obama T-shirts. People put McCain or Obama bumper stickers on their cars. Do marauding gangs of Democrats or Republicans roam the cities, beating these people up if their t-shirts feature the wrong candidates?

People take part in exit polls, announcing to total strangers who they voted for. Are any of them getting beaten up by gangs of marauding Obama or McCain supporters?

Now, as a libertarian, I’m not a big fan of this farce called voting. I consider voting an act of legitimizing your own oppressor. Having said that, I still think, if you’re going to vote, there should be some mechanism to verify that the vote count is accurate. With the nonsensical tradition of the secret ballot, we guarantee that every election is rife with fraud. I suppose this is appropriate for any government-run operation, but I am amazed how few people point out the obvious way in which secret ballots go hand-in-hand with fraud.

You don’t need me to point out the various problems with secret balloting. Whether it’s Diebold vote-flipping programs, or dead people voting for LBJ in Texas, or multiple voting in Chicago in the 1960 Presidential election, fraud has a long and illustrious history.

And, the really beautiful thing about secret balloting is that there is no way to verify that your vote was recorded properly, or counted at all. You just have to trust the virtuous government officials that somehow they got it right.

If you trust this system, you are way beyond naive.

What I would propose is that secret balloting be dumped. Look, if you care enough about a candidate to vote for him (or her), you should not be ashamed to have your vote be publicly available for verification purposes. I propose that, after each election, the results for each precinct be made available online, with the name of each voter and who they voted for plainly posted. This way, you could verify that your own vote was properly posted. If you notice your dead relative somehow voted, you could challenge the vote.

What are the chances such a change could actually happen? Not very likely. As noted, our ruling classes are much more comfortable being able to manipulate the vote at their own discretion. And, we were all brainwashed in eighth grade into believing this is somehow an honest system. So, it’s unlikely there will be loud protests demanding the end of the sacred concept of the secret ballot.

Congratulations, Mrs. Pringle! You did your job well.