A History of the Australian Ballot System in the United States/Chapter I
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(Chapter I: The Manner of Voting Before the Introduction of the Australian Ballot System)
|Chapter II: The Origin of the Australian Ballot System and its Introduction into the United States→|
The New England States
Following the contemporary practice in England, the governor and other officers in New England were at first elected by the view, or the showing of hands. This system was soon abandoned, and according to Governor Winthrop, in 1634 and thereafter in Massachusetts, "the Governor and deputy were elected by papers wherein their names were written." A special procedure was used for the election of assistants. The governor formally named one man; the people all went out and came in at one door, and every freeman dropped a paper into a hat. Those voting for the candidate turned in a paper with a figure or scroll on it, while the others handed in blanks. In 1643 this method of electing assistants was abandoned in favor of the corn-and-bean ballot. In the acts of 1636 and 1653, it was enacted that it should be lawful for the freemen of every town to choose by papers deputies to the General Court.
The use of the ballot, or papers, seemed to have been entirely for convienence and with no object of secrecy. This is shown by an enactment of 1647, whereby it was provided that the governor, deputy, major-general, treasurer, secretary, and commissioners were to be elected by writing the names of the persons on open papers, or papers once folded, "not twisted nor rouled up, that they may be the sooner perused."
The history of the other New England colonies is very similar to that of Massachusetts. In organizing the Rhode Island government of 1647, the election of officers by papers was agreed to. The Hartford Constitution of 1638 definitely provided for the election of officers by written papers. The constitutions of all the New England states, adopted during, or immediately after, the Revolutionary War, provided for the election of officers by the written ballot. The same system was gradually extended to the election of local officers. In a law passed on February 28, 1797, the General Assembly of Vermont enacted "that the several officers [i.e., town officers] aforesaid, shall be chosen by ballot, or other such method as the voters present shall agree upon." New Hampshire in 1804 directed the town clerks to be chosen by ballot.
The ballots used in the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century were written by hand; but with the great increase in the number of elective offices this became a very laborious task. The difficulty was met in Massachusetts by a decision of the Supreme Court. The plaintiff had, in the election of 1829, tendered a printed ticket containing his vote for fifty-five persons. This ticket was rejected, and on appeal the court held that printed votes were written votes within the meaning of the constitution, which required that "every member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by written votes." Maine in 1831 and Vermont in 1839 authorized by statute the use of either printed or written ballots. Five years later Connecticut accomplished the same result by an amendment to its constitution.
This legalization of printed tickets was accompanied in Maine by the requirement that ballots should be printed on clean white paper, without any distinguishing mark or figure besides the names of the persons voted for and the office for which each was intended; and colored ballots were forbidden. In Massachusetts the direct result of the case of Henshaw v. Foster was that the parties began to print tickets on varied-colored paper, which destroyed the secrecy of the vote. In 1839 the system was made even worse by an act requiring ballots to be deposited in the ballot box, open and unfolded. This was as public as the viva voce mode and opened the way to bribery and intimidation. After many efforts, in 1851 the liberals, consisting of Free-Soilers and Democrats, passed the envelope law. This required that votes for governor, lieutenant-governor, state senators and representatives, presidential electors, and representatives in Congress should be deposited in the ballot box in a sealed envelope. These envelopes were of uniform size, color, quality, and appearance, and were furnished by the secretary of state to the town and city clerks, and distributed on the day of election by sworn clerks, who were stationed in the same room with the ballot box. Making, stamping, or selling any imitation of the official envelope was prohibited under penalties. In 1853 the conservatives came into power and, not daring to repeal the law, destroyed its value by making the use of the official envelope purely optional. The elector could deposit his ballot in a sealed envelope, or without the envelope, open and unfolded. The voters who could be bribed or intimidated of course were forced to choose the latter method. In the constitutional convention of that year the compulsory use of the official envelopes was proposed, but, by a close vote, was defeated by the voters. The year following the American party carried the state and attempted to restore the law. It passed the lower house, but was defeated in the Senate. In Rhode Island the use of an official envelope was made obligatory in 1851. This was soon abandoned in favor of an optional use of the official envelope, as in Massachusetts.
1^ Cox, Ancient Parliamentary Elections, p. 121.
2^ Bishop, History of Elections in the American Colonies, p. 141
3^ Ibid., p. 142.
4^ Colonial Laws of Massachusetts, ed. 1660-72, p. 145.
5^ Ibid., p. 149.
6^ Rhode Island Colonial Records, I, 148.
7^ Bishop, History of Elections in the American Colonies, p. 150.
8^ Connecticut Constitution, 1818, Art. VI, sec. 7; Massachusetts Constitution, 1780, ch. I, sec. 3, Art. III; Maine Constitution, 1820, Art. II, sec. I; New Hampshire Constitution, 1792, Part II, secs. 14, 22; Vermont Constitution, 1777, ch. 2, sec. 17; Rhode Island Constitution, 1842, Art. VIII, secs. 1-3. The written ballot was used in Rhode Island by the middle of the seventeenth century.
9^ Vermont Digest, 1808, ch. 41, sec. 5.
10^ New Hampshire Laws, 1815, p. 249.
11^ Henshaw v. Foster, 9 Pickering (Mass.) 312.
12^ Maine Laws, 1831, ch. 518.
13^ Vermont R.S., 1839, p. 38.
14^ Tracts on the Ballot, No. 5, article by Amasa Walker.
15^ Massachusetts Acts and Res., 1839, p. 16.
16^ Massachusetts Acts and Res., 1851, ch. 226; 1852, ch. 234.
17^ Ibid., 1853, ch. 36.
18^ Tracts on the Ballot, No. 5, pp. 15-18.
19^ Rhode Island Laws, 1851-53, p. 884.
20^ Rhode Island Public Laws, 1857, pp. 83-84.
The Middle Eastern States
During the colonial period both the viva voce method and the ballot were used in the middle eastern states.
In Pennsylvania the framers of government of 1682 and 1683 required elections to be by ballot. Yet, from the disputed elections of 1689, proof was furnished of a great lack of uniformity in the method of voting. One member stated that the ballot was used only when doubt existed as to the number of voices. Another asserted that the members from Philadelphia county only were elected by ballot. A third said that the election was decided by a black and white bean ballot. By an act of the legislature in 1706, the use of the written ballot was continued and provision was made for the illiterate voter. If the illiterate voter brought a ticket to the polls, the judge of election was required to open the ticket and to read aloud the names written thereon, and to ask the elector if these were the persons for whom he wished to vote. If the answer was in the affirmative, the ballot was deposited in the box provided for that purpose. In case such elector brought no ticket he could give verbally the names of the candidates of his choice.
Elections in Delaware were conducted practically the same as in Pennsylvania. In the concessions and agreements granted by the proprietors of West Jersey in 1676-77, provision was made for the use of "balloting trunks." The surrender of this colony to the crown in 1701 caused the English system of viva voce voting or voting by the show of hands to be introduced. This latter method was also used at elections in the royal colony of New York. In the constitution of New York of 1777 authority was given the legislature to provide for the election of representatives, senators, and governor by the ballot; and if this method was found inconvenient or mischievous, the legislature by a two-thirds vote could return to the viva voce system. The legislature at first provided only for the election of the governor and lieutenant-governor by the ballot; but in 1787 this was also extended to the members of the legislature. Later, town officers were directed to be chosen by ballot. New Jersey, by statute, in 1794 provided for the election of members of the legislative council, General Assembly, and sheriffs, and coroners of counties by the ballot.
When they were presented for voting the ballots used in these states were generally required to be folded so as to conceal the writing thereon. Delaware specifically prohibited any examination of the ballot at the time it was presented for voting, except to determine whether it was single. The use of the printed ballot came earlier in this group than in the New England states. Its use was authorized in Pennsylvania in 1799, in Delaware in 1811, in New Jersey in 1820, and in New York in 1822.
21^ McKinley, The Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English Colonies, p. 277.
22^ Bishop, History of Elections in the American Colonies, p. 169.
23^ McKinley, Suffrage Franchise, p. 245.
24^ Bishop, History of Electious, p. 156.
25^ New York Constitution, 1777, secs. 6,17.
26^ Poore, Charters and Constitutions, II, p. 1333.
27^ New York Laws, 1809, ch. 157, sec. 8.
28^ New Jersey R.S., 1821, p. 273.
29^ Delaware R.S., 1829, p. 177.
30^ Pennsylvania Laws, 1700-1810, III, 345-46.
31^ Delaware Laws, 1806-13, p. 429.
32^ New Jersey R.S., 1821, p. 744.
33^ New York Laws, 1822, ch. 250, sec. 7.
The Southern States
During the colonial period both the viva voce system of voting and the ballot were known in the South. Before the Revolution, in Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia the English method was adopted, while in South Carolina and in North Carolina, except for the period from 1760 to 1776, the ballot was used.
The viva voce system was introduced early in the history of Virginia, and is implied in the phrase "major part of voices" used in 1624 and in 1646 this method was made compulsory. In 1785 it was provided by law that if the election could not be determined by the view, the poll should be taken. The sheriff obtained a sufficient number of writers, who were put under oath to take the poll impartially. The sheriff delivered a poll-book to each writer, who, by drawing lines, divided the book into as many columns as there were candidates. The name of each candidate was written at the head of a column, and under his name in the same column, the names of the electors voting for him.
In The End of An Era, J. S. Wise gives a picture of the viva voce scheme in operation:
In those days, voting was done openly, or viva voce, as it was called, and not by ballot. The election judges, who were magistrates, sat upon a bench with their clerks before them. Where practicable, it was customary for the candidates to be present in person, and to occupy a seat at the side of the judges. As the voter appeared, his name was called out in a loud voice. The judges inquired, "John Jones (or Smith), for whom do you vote ?"--for governor, or whatever was the office to be filled. He replied by proclaiming the name of his favorite. Then the clerks enrolled the vote, and the judges announced it as enrolled. The representative of the candidate for whom he voted arose, bowed, and thanked him aloud; and his partisans often applauded.
This method of voting was entirely public, and, even to a greater extent than the unofficial ballot, opened the way to bribery and intimidation. Its use was abandoned by North Carolina in 1776, Maryland and Georgia in 1799, Arkansas in 1846, Missouri in 1863, Virginia in 1867, and Kentucky in 1890. In the other southern states the viva voce method of voting was not used.
34^ 12 Bishop, History of Elections in the American Colonies, p. 156.
35^ McKinley, Suffrage Franchise.
36^ Virginia R.C., 1814, I, 28.
37^ J. S. Wise, The End of an Era, pp. 55-56.
38^ North Carolina Constitution, 1776, secs. 2,3.
39^ Maryland Constitution, 1799, Art. VI, sec. 2.
40^ Prince Digest (Ga.), 1822, p. 130.
41^ English Digest (Ark.), 1848, ch. 61, sec. 30.
42^ Missouri G.S., 1866, ch. 2, secs. 12, 14.
43^ Virginia Constitution, 1867, Art. III.
44^ Kentucky Constitution, 1890, sec. 147.
45^ The ballot has been used in South Carolina since 1683 (McKinley, Suffrage Franchise, p. 141). The ballot was adopted by Tennesse in 1796 (Constitution, Art. III, sec. 3); by Louisiana in 1812 (Constitution, 1812, Art. VI, sec. 13); by Alabama in 1812 (Digest, 1823, p. 267); and by Florida in 1828-33 (Duval, Public Acts, 1839, pp. 340, 343-44).
The North Central and Western States
The viva voce method was at first introduced into the Northwest Territory. The opportunities that it gave for intimidation soon caused its repeal. Governor St. Clair in 1800, in an address to the legislature, spoke of the fact that creditors were using their power over debtors to make them vote for certain candidates on promises of extending the time for payment. He recommended the substitution of the ballot in place of the viva voce method. On December 9 of the same year .the territorial legislature enacted that in all elections the manner of voting should be by ballot. Each of the north central states, except Illinois, on its admission into the Union provided in its constitution that all elections should be by ballot. In the western group of states the ballot was generally adopted. Texas and Oregon, in fact, constitute the only instances the writer could find of the use of the viva voce system.
46^ The act of 1794 was plainly viva voce (Chase, Statutes of Ohio, ch. 102, p. 241).
47^ Smith, The St. Clair Papers, II, 505-6.
48^ Ohio Constitution, 1802, Art. IV, sec. 2; Indiana Constitution, 1816, Art. VI, sec. 2; Michigan Constitution, 1835, Art. II, sec. 2; Iowa Constitution, 1846, Art. II, sec. 6; Wisconsin Constitution, 1848, Art. III, sec. 3; Minnesota Constitution, 1858, Art. VII, sec. 6; Illinois Constitution, 1818, provided for the viva voce mode, but empowered the legislature to change it; the constitution of 1847 provided for the ballot.
49^ Chase, Statutes of Ohio, Vol. I, ch. 140, PP. 505-6.
50^ Gammel, Laws (Texas), PP. 1517-18.
51^ Oregon Constitution, 1857, Art. II, sec. 15.
The Form of the Ballot
By the middle of the nineteenth century the ballot was used in almost all of the United States. The term "ballot," however, meant one or several pieces of paper which contained the names of the candidates and the designation of the offices, and which were used by the electors in voting. The ballots could be either written on printed; but were, as a matter of fact, almost always printed.
In appearance and form the ballots varied in different states and in different elections. The ticket of each party was separate, and, as a general rule, could be distinguished, even when folded, from all other tickets as far as it could be seen. Frequently the party tickets were of a different color. In a municipal election in Massachusetts the Republicans used a red ticket and the opposition a black one; and in the same state in 1878 the Republican ticket had a flaming pink border which threw out branches toward the center of the back, and had a Republican indorsement in letters half an inch high. In another election in Massachusetts the Republicans used a colored ballot, while the Democratic ticket was white with an eagle so heavily printed as to show through the ballot. In one election in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, the Republican ticket was of medium-weight paper, with the back resembling a playing-card, and, according to statements made, could be recognized across the street. The Democrats had a tissue-paper ticket of a pale-blue color. There were two sizes of this tissue-paper ticket, so that the smaller could be folded in the larger one, and an outsider could not tell that there was more than one ticket being voted. The Democratic ticket used at the polls in Charleston, South Carolina, had a red checked back and was printed with red ink. Tissue-paper ballots were used quite extensively throughout the South.
52^ Nation, XXVIII, 82-83.
53^ Forty-sixth Congress, second session, Report 497, p. 23.
54^ A Corrupt Ballot Box and Prostituted Ballots, p. 56. For an illustration of the kind of tickets used, see Congressional Record, XIII, Part 5, p. 4343.
55^ Senate Report 855, Serial No. 1840, p. xxxv.