How a secret ballots kept secret?
April 19, 2010 8:14 PM Subscribe
How (in the US), when voting in government elections, do we know that our secret ballots do, indeed, remain secret?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere to law & government (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds paranoid, I know, but I'm genuinely curious. I ask mostly because I live in a small town of about 30k people, and I've heard for years that rules and laws (nothing election related so far) get bent for "friends" of the "right people" all the time.
Also, I had a relative (now deceased) of some prominence in this town (not political at all, just well known and respected) who was approached by a local candidate and asked to please vote for said candidate years ago. My relative always politely declined to say whether or not s/he would vote for anyone and did so to the candidate.
In the end, the candidate in question won by a very small number of votes. From that election on, as long as my relative lived, the candidate, upon seeing my relative in town, would always profusely thank my relative for having voted FOR them in that particular election. My relative was always very curious about this since the candidate clearly didn't do this to anyone else in town (to our knowledge, of course). Turns out that my relative did, indeed, vote for that candidate. I'm certain I am the only one my relative told this to.
Sure, this could be a case of simple assumptions, coincidence, misunderstanding, forgetfulness by my relative, etc. but my relative was always stymied by this reaction because s/he kept her/his voting record so private.
So, I ask: how are secret ballots kept secret in the US (typically, if more specific is not possible)? I live in IL so info on that specific state would be ideal. I'm more concerned about local, county, etc. stuff than statewide or national things. Also, we always had punch card ballots then. Since Bush/Gore 2000 we've had the type where you fill in the circle with black ink. Also, I'm restricting this question to voting at a polling place only.
I know I could go ask this at the county clerk's office, but I won't because I don't want to arouse suspicion.
As always, sorry if this is a repeat! I searched the archives and only found a question on how to tell whether or not someone voted, but not how to tell for whom they voted.