Whatever happened to the secret ballot?
Until recently, my wife could tell me how to vote, but once I got into the voting booth, I could smirk and vote any way I wanted. Now she can simply demand that I hand over the ballot with only my signature on it.
I don't doubt that there are places in this town where, by offering some pints of whiskey or some methamphetamines, a scoundrel could obtain a sufficient number of signed, but otherwise blank ballots, to swing a close election. It used to be that vote purchasers had to trust the vote sellers to vote the way they had agreed. Now, the ballot purchasers can cast the votes themselves.
Absentee ballots present the same dangers, but there just is no alternative if those who are going to be away are to have a chance to vote. The number of absentee ballots and the resulting dangers are comparatively very small.
This would all be an academic discussion if, for example, Payson were such a law-abiding town that we didn't even need a police department. No one has any idea how many, or how few, fraudulent votes are cast. It's not a crime like burglary that leaves traces, but other laws are broken here all the time.
When our ancestors first won the secret ballot, they prized it. We, or at least most of us, still have a secret ballot in the sense that we can complete our ballot in the privacy of our homes. But, if other ballots that shouldn't count are being counted, my vote doesn't mean as much as it should. Our own ballots are not the only ones that matter.
When it is easier to vote, people will vote who otherwise would not have been interested enough in the election to leave their television sets long enough to go to a polling place. We have "bought" the idea that it is the quantity of votes that matters most, not the integrity of the voting.
Of course, it's much easier to just mail in our ballots. It would be even easier to let someone else vote for us. If what we want is the maximum number of votes, we could just ask my wife to expand her horizons and cast a ballot on behalf of every registered voter in town.
Stuart Bishop, Payson