The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56
The Secrecy of the Ballot. — Leaflet No. XXXV
The Secrecy of the Ballot.
Leaflet No. XXXV.Tom.
Well, Jack! what's this I hear about the gentlemen coming round to fix which of us is to have votes and which not?Jack.
Why, they tell me there is to be a General Election of Members to Parliament after harvest; so, what they call Registration will have to be done earlier than usual.Tom.
But if we're put on the list, arc we all obliged to vote?Jack.
No, of course not, unless we like. But why shouldn't we vote?Tom.
Well, you know, I was having a talk with my master the other day, and he tells me that he hears that all the voting-papers arc sent up to London; and that somehow or other they find out there how everybody has voted.Jack.
Your master may know something about mangolds and turnips, and perhaps a little even about buying stock, though he generally pays a dealer to do that, whereby he loses at least five per cent, of the profit when there is any; but as to public matters and politics, why, bless you! he is as innocent as a baby.Tom.
That may be; but I saw him coming out of Lawyer Wilkinson's office last market-day, and I think he has been consulting with him, and what you call sucking the lawyer's brains.Jack.
Well, Tom, I'll tell you what; I've been asking some questions of a friend too, and I'll tell you what he said to me about it.Tom.
All right, Jack! move on.Jack.
Well, my friend said the best way to judge whether page 2 the Ballot was secret or not would be to follow what is done a! an election step by step, and to consider at each step whether it is possible for anybody to find out how you and I vote, unless we tell them ourselves.Tom.
That seems very reasonable, so go on.Jack.
First of all, if you and I want to vote, we have to find out our number on the Register. This there's no trouble about for the candidates' agents arc sure to do it for us, and it tells nothing except that we are thinking of voting; so far, then, we are safe.Tom.
So I think; but what's next?Jack.
Next we have to go to the gentleman who sits at the place where they take the votes, tell him our number, and take a voting-paper. These voting-papers are bound up in books like ratebooks or cheque-books, each paper having a counterfoil, which is left in the book when the voting-paper is torn off. Printed on the paper is (1) a number—1, 2, 3, &c.—corresponding with the number on the counterfoil; (2) the names of the candidates; (3) an official stamp, which is the same on all the voting-papers and is put on to prevent them from being used at any other election.Tom.
Are there any marks on what you call the counterfoil?Jack.
Yes; some number—1, 2, 3, &c.—corresponding with the number on the voting-paper, is printed on the counterfoil; but when the presiding officer gives us our voting-papers he writes our Register number on the counterfoil also.Tom.
Well, then, if anybody wants to know how I vote be has only to get my number on the Register—which is very easy to do—look through the counterfoils till he finds the one on which it is written, see what number is stamped upon it, and rummage among the voting-papers after the election till he finds my which will have the same number stamped upon it as is stamped upon the counterfoil.Jack.
Certainly, Tom. But I'll show you presently that is just what nobody can do.Tom.
Very well, then; we'll leave that. But now I've got my voting-paper, what am I to do with it?Jack.
Go into a kind of stall which is shut off from view, and with page 3 a kind of a desk at the end of it. There you will find pens and ink, and you can put a cross against the name of the man of your choice. This is the third step you have to take, and 11 can't see that it tells anything more than the first or the second.Tom.
No more can I; but can you satisfy me about the second step?Jack.
Well, I'll try and do that, but first I must remind you that you have one more step to take; that is, to fold up your votings-paper, and put it into a closed box with a slit in the lid, called the ballot-box. That's all you have to do, and, so far as you are concerned, the election is over. But now I'll tell you what happens too the counterfoils and to the voting-papers. The counterfoils, together with the registers which have been used at the polling, are sealed up in a parcel and sent to a public officer in London, called the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. This is done at the close of the poll. The voting-papers from all the polling places are sent too the presiding officer, whoever he may be, sheriff or mayor or their deputies. They are then tumbled out into one great heap, and counted in his presence, and in presence of the election agents of both candidates. The poll is then declared, and the voting-papers are sealed in another parcel, and sent to the same officer as the counterfoils. At the end of a twelvemonth the parcel-Is of voting-papers, registers, and counterfoils are all burnt unopened.Tom.
Why arn't they done away with directly in place of being kept for a twelvemonth?Jack.
I'll tell you; though I agree with you that it is hardly worth while keeping the papers so long. I daresay you've heard talk of an election petition?Tom.
Well, I can't say I haven't; but I don't rightly know what it is.jack.
It's this: that after an election the losing party some-times thinks he ought to have won, or that the other party, at all events, ought not to have won; so he presents a petition to Parliament, and asks to be allowed to prove his case. Now comes in the reason why the voting-papers, counterfoils, &c., are not burnt directly.Tom.
How's that?page 4 Jack.
Why, if the gentleman who petitions succeeds in proving to the satisfaction of the judge before whom the case is tried that enough bad votes were polled to turn the election supposing they had been all given to the candidate who had won, the judge will give an order to the Clerk of the Crown to open the sealed parcels of counterfoils and voting-papers, and trace, by means of the register number written and of the stamped number printed on the counterfoil, how the corresponding voting-papers were filled up. But even in this case it is only the bad votes which are traced, and this by an officer who is sworn to secrecy.Tom.
Very good; I understand that. But what are bad votes, as you call them?Jack.
If a man is found to have been bribed, his vote is bad.Tom.
Well, that won't touch me, as I don't mean to take a bribe. But what else?Jack.
Peers of the realm, policemen, Government servants—at least some of them—felons, foreigners or aliens, women-for the present, at least—anybody under 21, an idiot or a lunatic, can't vote; or if they do vote, their votes are bad.Tom.
Well, that list don't apply to me, so I think I'm pretty safe.Jack.
I think so too, and that you and I may be pretty well satisfied that
The Ballot is Secret.
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