How important is being able to cast a ballot in secret?


If you look back at the history of voting, as recent as 1930 there were places where you’d walk into the Town Hall and announce your vote to someone like a Deputy who tallied the votes often right in front of several officials in the town including the Sheriff.

This creates an obvious problem, if you didn’t like the Sheriff, how likely might you be to vote for his competition? If he wins despite your vote, then what?

Obviously voting in secret is an important part of American democracy. Our kids practice this in grade school. I mean, it’s so obvious that other kinds of voting, including voting using technology has been rejected because of the fear of vote buying, intimidation ect. I read something that said at the turn of the last century 5% of votes cast were paid for. The mechinisim at the time gave people receipts for votes. Someone might offer a few dollars each for a vote receipt with a particular persons name on it. Obviously this would appeal to the poor. Once we got rid of receipts that practice largely ended.

So here is a question for all of you. Think about all the reasons that secret balloting is important and ask yourself. Why does our Congress vote in public? Sure, we all want to know if our Congress person is doing what we ask, but when you look at the statistics, it becomes obvious that our Congress is under the influence of wealth.

Is this a problem with government, or the power of wealth?

Would the problem be solved if we took power away from the Federal Government and put it back into the hands of the states? Honestly it’s not really the question for this post, but I’ll just say, I’m not sure how that would solve this particular problem since state and local government vote largely the same way, publicly. Now there may be a lot of other good reasons to move things to the states, but that is not what I’m arguing, I’m simply saying that moving things away from the Federal Government won’t solve the apparent problem.

Of course this creates a new worry. If I can’t see how my Congressman voted, how can I know if he is voting the way that I want him too? How can I know if I should vote for him again?

I don’t have the answer to that question, one of the reasons I posted this here.

Clearly the system we have now is broken.

So the question is:

  1. Allow public officials to vote privately just like citizens (and for many of the same reasons)?

  2. Remove money from the political process by instituting government funded elections?

  3. Congress has an approval rating of 7%, just leave things the way they are.

  4. Do you have a better idea? I’d like to hear it.

The charts below (allegedly) illustrate how little affect a voter has on the process.

On the bottom of each of the three charts they are labeled 0-100%. This shows how much a particular group might favor legislation or not favor a particular piece of legislation. At the left the chart shows when groups are against a bill as it approaches 0% and as it approaches 100% shows when a group heavily favors it. Notice that when the average citizen really likes or really hates an idea it seems to make little difference in the outcome. Congress always seems to vote with the average person about 30% of the time. Now look at how often Congress votes with special interest and the wealthy. Notice that if these groups really don’t like something it almost never passes. At the other end it passes about 60% of the time, or about twice the influence of the average citizen.

  1. Allow public officials to vote privately just like citizens (and for many of the same reasons)?

  2. Remove money from the political process by instituting government funded elections?

  3. Congress has an approval rating of 7%, just leave things the way they are.

  4. Do you have a better idea? I’d like to hear it.

I’ll bite.

  1. No. It is for transparency that we see how our Congress votes. If you blind the people that will not stop interests groups from buying their votes. It just means we will not see it.
  2. No. Money isn’t the problem. An apathetic voter base is. If just 30-50% of the voting base actually gave a damn about elections and stayed informed then our elections would look completely different.
  3. Congress will never have a high approval rating. I think the highest I have ever seen it was after 9/11.
  4. Just a more largely informed populace. Our government relies solely on the people. When the people shirk their duty to stay informed and vote accordingly then we see what is happening today.

Just to touch on your States power topic. I think alot of our problems can be solved by moving alot of the power back to the states. While states may be just as corrupt as the Feds they are more in touch with the needs of their states and can best craft policy to address the needs of their constituents.


** An apathetic voter base is. If just 30-50% of the voting base actually gave a damn about elections and stayed informed then our elections would look completely different. **
That’s kind of a chicken & egg question. Are voters apathetic because congress sucks or does congress suck because voters are apathetic. My feeling is that congress is responsive to those that elected them. It’s just that those that supply money for costly elections are not Joe average citizen. My feeling is that even if every American voted we would still have exactly what we have.

  1. 100% agree with the idea of transparency. That is the downside to this idea, however I disagree that Congress would vote with the money interests anyway. If that were the case people would still be getting paid to vote. The reason no one pays for votes is there is no way to prove how a person actually voted.
  2. Totally disagree and agree with Tex. Even if 100% of the people voted, we’d see about the same problem.
  3. Congress had a 40% approval rating in the 1970’s
  4. Who informs the populace? Right now virtually all media is controlled by 6 corporations and does much of the “informing”. beside that we have “think tanks” that have an opinion that align with those that fund them. Local newspapers are a decent source of info, but newspapers are closing, or go “digital” and lay off most of their investigative journalists at an alarming rate. Point being is that if you have enough money, YOU can be the source of information, Can you say Oligarchy?

How do you know the information you’re getting isn’t heavily biased?


Spot on. Couldn’t have said it better myself.


its not a matter of just voting it is being informed and actively participating. We have let government, at all levels, give itself to much power. AS to you chicken or the egg question I would say that it is both. Voters apathetic because Congress sucks and Congress sucks because voters are apathetic. We cannot expect Congress to do whats right if we are lazy and Congress will not do whats right if we are. We get the government we deserve.


No. As Penn Jillette pointed out, if there were any concerns about Citizens United this election, they went out the window.

Bernie stayed in far longer than he should have because he could leverage monetary support he couldn’t otherwise, and once again, the Republican candidate with the most money didn’t win this year.

By banning private donations you aren’t banning money in politics. You’re banning the most egalitarian way it enters, and instead, giving the advantage to the far less egalitarian money.

Better solution?: limit everyone to one term.

Now look at how often Congress votes with special interest and the wealthy.

Ironically, if you banned donations, you’d only put them further into special interest hands. Even if they can’t donate directly, special interests will have a ground presence & organization politicians will covet. Something ordinary citizens do not.


See my above post to address some of your questions. If we are being fed misinformation then there is no helping it unless it is exposed. If I lock you in a room and tell you the world has ended and show photos of a desloated landscape then you will believe it.


I don’t think Citizens united affects Presidential campaigns all that much. Mostly because of the intense scrutiny. Not to mention that the Presidency has become much more ineffectual over the last 50 years. No, those with money know that it’s safer and more effective to manipulate the Congress. This is where Citizens United has tipped the balance imo.

Now having said that, I will throw this is and it may or may not surprise some of you. The fact that Trump won the nomination and Bernie did not is a signal to me that the DNC is more corrupt than the RNC. I believe this because the establishment did not want Trump and got him anyway. For the DNC everyone had crowned Hillary long before the election started and they made sure it stayed that way.

The interesting thing will be to see if the RNC will become more corrupt going forward or if the DNC becomes less corrupt (or perhaps a combination of both?).

I’d support Citizens United btw, if 40% of the money you donated went to the opposition.


Was that last sentence supposed to be a statement or a question?


I am totally against the banning of private contributions to political campaigns and substituting the funding with public money. Who gets to determine which candidates get the money under the public system? The establishment politicians, that’s who. It would be just one more step that will have the “progressives” controlling every meaningful aspect of our lives. Thank goodness the Supreme Court knocked down the Campaign Finance “Reform” law. If Hillery gets to pack the next Supreme Court, you can kiss your right to pick the candidates in free and open primaries goodbye. They will all be state sponsored clones.


Except Unions donate far more than corporations.

| National Review

If Corporations have some sort of sleeper power here, they either aren’t or are reluctant to use it.

I’d support Citizens United btw, if 40% of the money you donated went to the opposition.

Can’t agree, “fairness doctrine” was a bad idea in Radio, and it’s a bad idea here.


I’m not in favor of unions donating this way either. I don’t think Unions represent the “average” persons interest. I read some interesting ideas on how Unions donations are categorized, but it’s really not worth arguing, because the point isn’t who is doing the donating, though I admit I carelessly singled out corporations as an example, but the proof seems to be in the graph I posted as to the influence money has on politics. Congress isn’t voting with the average person who make up the majority.[/quote]

That was kinda tongue-and-cheek. The first most obvious problem is that it assumes a system dominated by two parties, not something I’m for. At the very least it would make usurping an established party almost impossible.


And they wouldn’t if you banned personal contributions either. We know this, because of the period before Citizen’s United when States did this.

States which, conversely, allowed personal contributions, were rated as better-Governed. Why? Because it lowers the playing field, and disrupts the incumbent effect.

You don’t have to get your money, or your support, from a specialized place, gatekeeped by elites or bureaucrats. The money can come from anywhere, and more people can join in.


I could see why others might want to not have someone see how they vote. Me? I’m way to old to worry about stuff like that. Heck now that I think about it I may wear a shirt with Trumps name on it & one of those beanie’s with the propeller that spins. Not only would it announce who I was voting for but it would also embarrass my wife to death. So…It’s a twofer. (wink)


The federal government has taken considerable power from the states over our 2+ centuries of existence. Federal regulations impact the states and the feds have grabbed considerable control over various state and local functions/institutions, such as education. The federal government has done this largely by way of returning a portion of collected federal taxation to local institutions as long as compliance standards set by the feds are followed. Many other examples of federal over-reach are possible to list.

The result of such a large amount of power having been taken from state/local governments by the federal government is that people lose control over lawmakers the farther removed from them they are.

Go to a city council meeting. The local politicos are far more responsive to residents than you will find with more remote politicians - even on the state level.

Should individual citizens be allowed to hold their vote private - to not make their vote public? Of course. To require otherwise would invite and, under many circumstances, guarantee coercion.

As for politicians - in order to hold them individually accountable their vote must be a matter of public record. Unfortunately, not enough people take time to review the voting record of their representatives in congress.

I don’t think it is the system that is broken. I think it is our electorate that has failed. They can hold the political bums accountable - citizens can vote fools out of office, but they rarely do. Your post is correct about approval rating - Congress has a single digit approval rating, yet 95% OF INCUMBENTS RUNNING FOR REELECTION GET REELECTED!! Who reelects these idiots? The very people who give congress a collective single digit approval rating.

As for money. There is no way in hell to keep money out of politics. If I wish to donate money to selected causes/candidates of MY CHOICE I should be allowed to. It is part and parcel of my right to freedom of expression. Public funding would NEVER voluntarily receive a nickel of my money. Why - because I do not want any of my hard earned tax money going to candidates/causes I do not approve of.


Few thoughts.

First, though I didn’t call you on it, you claimed that Unions contribute more than corporations. Is that true since Citizens United? (Source?)

Next, I’m not trying to ban personal contributions, per-se. Of course I’d like to see some kind of reasonable cap per person and no matter what, I’d always want who made donations (amount and who made the donation) to be made available to the public. No undocumented shadow donations via 3rd parties.

As far as the affects of Citizens united, I don’t buy it (pun intended). If money didn’t matter people wouldn’t be giving millions and companies and special interests 10’s of millions a campaign wouldn’t require 100’s of millions.

Lastly, back in the days of soft money, a candidate had ownership of his party’s national apparatus and the accusations it hurled on prime-time TV. He was responsible for the integrity of his argument, and his advisers ultimately controlled it. What the reform-minded architects of McCain-Feingold inadvertently unleashed, what Citizens United intensified but by no means created, is a world in which a big part of the money in a presidential campaign is spent by political entrepreneurs and strategists who are unanswerable to any institution. Candidates and parties who become the vehicles of angry outsiders, and the candidates themselves don’t really have control of their own campaigns anymore; to a large extent, they are the instruments of volatile forces beyond their own reckoning.

Maybe that makes for a cleaner and more democratic system than the one we had before, in the way the campaign-finance reformers intended, but it’s hard from where I sit to see how.


This does not seem to be common knowledge, not sure why???

FACT: we know how YOU vote in elections, why do think that magic electronic box is for, it converts you vote into electrons and I can turn to the magic data base, type in your name city and state bingo I see who voted for and who you have been voting for.

I was both surprised and shocked when I was given access and I always thought my vote was private and the data died after it was counted. Its doesn’t and I suspect that someday our govt will use that data to go after those who do not vote the way they are told to under our new world dictatorship.


You think the special interests couldn’t take a good guess as to how their bought officials voted? You think it won’t affect how they donate to campaigns and other favors?

Not really. In some ways, it’s easier to buy an official for one term, because he doesn’t have to worry as much about voter backlash.


Not sure how they’ed be able to guess. I mean unless a vote was unanimous (or very close to) and not in the way the special interest wanted, but that is a point to consider.