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election shall enter the name of the elector and number in the pollbooks . . .
There was usually some provision for checking off the names of voters on the registry list or poll lists as they voted, so that the total number of ballots cast could be accurately determined and ballot-box stuffing prevented. There were also penal provisions to guard against violence, intimidation, ballot-box stuffing, "repeating," voting without being qualified to vote, bribery, false swearing when challenged, non-performance or mal-performance of duty by election officers, etc., in short, the grosser varieties of election offences.
This system of so-called "vest-pocket" ballots was found, as party rivalry became more intense, to be deficient in many respects, and open to the most serious abuses. Chief among its defects was its utter failure to provide for secrecy in voting. Since the voter could be watched from the moment a ballot was handed to him somewhere outside the polling place until he deposited the same in the ballot-box, it could easily be ascertained whether he had, according to the modern phrase, "delivered the goods." The result of this was to facilitate and encourage bribery. Another result was that persons economically dependent, being deprived of the protection of secrecy, were coerced into voting as others bade them, or punished if they disobeyed. The expense of printing the ballots, moreover, while not a heavy burden on the party organizations, was large enough to act as a deterrent on independent candidacies; and such tricks as the distribution to voters of one party of ballots bearing the name or emblem of that party but the candidates of another, or of ballots containing the wrong candidates for certain offices, while usually forbidden under the penal law, were nevertheless common.
The prevalence of these abuses, especially in the presidential campaign of 1884, aroused a strong movement for reform1 and finally led to the adoption by most of the states of the so-called "Australian ballot system." The principal features of this system may be outlined as follows:
1. All ballots used in elections of public officers (except, usually, certain minor local elections) are printed under the direction of
1 Described in an article by W. H. Glasson on "The Australian Voting System," South Atlantic Quarterly. April, 1909. Above, p. 141.
public officials, at public expense, and are distributed by these officials to the various polling places prior to the election.
2. Each ballot contains on a single sheet the names of all the candidates duly nominated by any political party or independent group, whose names have been certified to certain designated public officers a specified number of days before the election, and is protected against counterfeit by an official indorsement on the back.
3. Ballots are obtainable by the voters only within the polling places, on election day, from the regular election officials, and are to be marked in absolute secrecy in voting booths provided for the purpose, folded so as to conceal the marking on the face and yet leave exposed the official endorsement on the back, and returned to the election officers to be deposited in the ballot-box, before the voter leaves the polling place.
4. Special safeguards in addition to those contained in the earlier American laws are usually provided to insure that the official ballots shall not be lost or stolen, or their contents divulged prior to election day (except as the publication or distribution of sample ballots is permitted); that none but official ballots shall be cast or counted; that the number of ballots counted shall correspond exactly with the number of persons voting, and that the ballot actually cast by each voter shall be the identical one given to him by the election officers (these last two objects are usually sought to be attained by a system of detachable, numbered stubs); that no official ballot shall be left unaccounted for when the election is over; that no electioneering shall be done in or around the polling place; that only the election officers, the duly appointed watchers of each party, and a specified number of voters shall be allowed within the polling place at any given time; that no voter shall place any mark upon his ballot tending to identify it as having been cast by him, or shall divulge, while in or near the polling place, how he has voted; and that no election officer or other person shall attempt to discover, or having discovered shall in any way disclose, how any voter has voted.
The first law adopted in the United States embodying the essential features of this system was enacted by the legislature of Kentucky and approved by the governor on February 24, 1888, and went into effect at once.' It applied only to munici
1 Laws, 1877-78, ch. 266.
pal elections in the city of Louisville. In this act the English and Australian models were quite closely followed. All candidates were to be nominated by petition, and their names were to be printed on the ballot in alphabetical order under the title of each office to be voted for, and without party designations of any sort.
This act, on account of its failure to recognize in any way the peculiar party system which had grown up in this country, was afterwards followed as a model by but few other states.
A statute which has been far more generally copied, and which has often received the credit of being the first Australian ballot law adopted in the United States, is the Massachusetts act of 1888. In this act the original Australian system was modified by the recognition, in several respects, of the party organizations. A political party was defined for the purposes of the election law, the criterion being the casting of a certain percentage of the total vote at the preceding state election. Any group of voters conforming to this definition was allowed to nominate, by caucus or convention of delegates, one candidate for each office to be filled at any election, and to secure the placing of his name on the official ballot by means of a "certificate of nomination," signed by the presiding officer and secretary of the caucus or convention, and filed with the secretary of the commonwealth, or the officer charged with the duty of having the ballots printed, a certain number of days before the date of the election. The name of each candidate so nominated was to be followed on the ballot by the designation of the party which had nominated him. For the sake of independent voters, and of newly formed political groups, it was provided that candidates might also be nominated by means of "nomination papers," signed by a prescribed number of qualified voters, and that any voter might write on his ballot, in blank spaces provided therefor, the names of any other persons whom he wished to vote for as candidates for any office.3 The names of all the candidates, however nominated, were to be arranged in alphabetical order under the title of each office.
1 Acts 1888, ch. 436; approved May 29, 1888; went into effect November 1, 1889.
2 Other criteria have since been adopted in different states.
This latter provision was merely continued from the earlier American laws, having generally been held by the courts to be a right constitutionally guaranteed to the voter.
A third statute, which has since been even more widely copied than that of Massachusetts, was the Indiana law of 1889.1 This act represented a still further compromise with the American party system. It provided for a form of ballot — which has since come to be known as the "party column" form all the candidates of each party were grouped in a separate column, the columns being placed side by side with the names of all the candidates for any one office on the same horizontal line. At the head of each column was placed the name of the party and some simple device or emblem selected by the party to designate its candidates; also a circle, usually known as the "party circle," by a single cross-mark in which the voter could vote for all the candidates in the "party column" below. This special method of voting a "straight ticket" has usually accompanied the "party column" form of ballot, and, as was demonstrated by the late Philip Loring Allen,2 has had a most important effect in discouraging independent voting and preserving intact the two great party organizations.
In this same year 1889 six other states adopted Austra
lian ballot laws, and Connecticut also passed a halfway measure providing for separate, unofficial ballots for each party, printed (as under the Louisiana law of 1877) on paper officially furnished, and to be inclosed (somewhat as under the Utah law of 1878) in official envelopes obtainable only at the polling places. From then on the progress of ballot reform was rapid.3
1 Laws, 1889, p. 157; App. March 6.
2 Mr. Allen, in a thoughtful and convincing article on "Ballot Laws and Their Workings," in the Political Science Quarterly for March, 1906, came to the conclusion that where the marking of each individual candidate on the ballot is compulsory the voters exercise from twice to ten times the discrimination among the candidates shown under the other ballot systems which favor straight voting. At the bottom of the scale in proportion of independent voting are the states requiring the voter to write or paste in names whenever he wishes to "scratch his ticket."
3 In 1890 five states and one territory adopted Australian ballot laws, Kentucky passed laws similar to the Louisville act of 1888 for four other cities, and New Jersey and New York enacted compromise measures, somewhat more advanced than the Connecticut act of 1889, providing for a separate official ballot for each party (and, in the case of New Jersey, for official envelopes).
In 1891 seventeen more states and another territory were added to the ranks.
At the close of 1896, only eight years after the first law was adopted in this country, there were thirty-eight states and two territories with state-wide Australian ballot laws, two more (Tennessee and Texas) with Australian ballot laws applying to cities or counties above a certain size, and two others (Connecticut. and New Jersey) with halfway laws embodying certain features of the Australian system. In the whole United States only Georgia, the two Carolinas, and New Mexico had as yet failed to adopt the reform to some extent.1
At present, forty states and one territory have state-wide Australian ballot laws, two states (Tennessee and North Carolina) have similar laws which are not state-wide, two states and one territory (Missouri, New Jersey, and New Mexico) have halfway measures embodying certain features of the Australian system, and only Georgia and South Carolina remain totally unregenerate.
The more important forms of ballot which have been used in this country since the adoption of the Australian system (not counting the compromise forms now used by Missouri, New Jersey, and New Mexico) may be divided into four principal classes. These are: First, the straight "Massachusetts" ballot, in which the names of the candidates of all parties (either with or without party designations) are grouped in order (usually in alphabetical order) under the title of each office, and in which there is only one method of marking the ballot i.e. by means of a cross opposite the name of each candidate to be voted for. The model for this class is, of course, the Massachusetts act of May 29, 1888. Second, the "party column" form of ballot,
In 1892 two more Australian ballot laws were enacted, and Kentucky for the first time passed a state-wide law.
Two more states were added in 1893, one in 1894, one in 1895- in which year New York abandoned the compromise system of 1890 in favor of the full Australian system as adopted by most of the other states and, finally, two in 1896.
In 1897 Missouri abandoned the regular Australian ballot system (the only case in which this has happened) and adopted a system of separate official ballots for each party somewhat like that of New Jersey. In 1903 Texas adopted a similar system for the whole state. In 1905, however, this law was repealed and a state-wide, Australian ballot law adopted. In the same year New Mexico adopted the "separate official ballot" system. In 1909 Connecticut joined the ranks of the straight Australian ballot states, and North Carolina passed its first Australian ballot law to apply to one county.