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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lisa Madigan: No Right to Secret Ballot

Earlier this week, I voted early in Cook County's February 2nd primary. The new touch screen machines have come a long way. After making my votes, the computer automatically moved me to a new screen in which all my votes were laid out. They were laid out in a color coded and column format. For all the offices in which I made a legal vote, that was one color and in one column. For all the offices for which there was no candidate (voting Republican in Cook County has many of those), there was a second color in a second column. For all those office for which I simply didn't vote (even though there were candidates), there was a third column and color. In other words, all my votes, and non votes, were laid out very neatly and very organized. In any given election, there can be as many as one hundred different votes to cast so such organization is vital to help the voter make sure they've done everything correctly.

I say all of this because starting in November of this year, the State of Illinois will institute new voting procedures. If anyone's ballot has an so called undervotes, the election judge will flag that ballot and go over this ballot one on one with the individual. This is a well meaning law with all sorts of unintended consequences. The law, SB 662, was created in 2007. Any ballot that has any under votes will then be inspected by an election judge. An under vote is when the voter doesn't vote for anyone in a given race. In other words, you may vote for President and the Senate but you skip entirely the race for your local state rep.

One problem is that the procedure set up to inspect the ballot is entirely vague. That judge can put said ballot onto the table in front of all judges so that everyone knows who you voted for. With vague rules, there naturally comes abuse. Here in Chicago, that will almost certainly lead to abuse. Election judges are often machine members. What's to stop them from pressuring folks into voting a certain way? There's very little in this bill. So, you can bet that election judges in Chicago will use this bill as a license to pressure voters a certain way.

Most troubling is the stance of the Illinois Attorney General. The Champaign County Solicitor brought a case into the Champaign Court arguing that this law violated our right to a secret ballot. Madigan argued that there is no such right. Madigan claimed that the secret ballot is merely a couresy the city, county and state gives the voters. As such, if a law comes along that violates this "privilege", that's perfectly Constitutional since the Constitution, state and American, doesn't have any such protection. Our right to vote is our most fundamental, and without a secret ballot, that ability is infringed. There's plenty of influence on your vote before you get into the booth. Once you're in the booth, that process must be entirely personal.

The worst part is that it should be clear that this law is entirely unncessary. The level of the machine technology already does what this law hopes an election judge will do. The votes are now organized in such a fine manner that all voters can easily inspect their ballot to make sure they didn't make any errors. This process can easily remain personal and still make sure that no mistakes are made.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure how you managed to deduce that your right to vote is infringed if you do not have a secret ballot, quite correctly neither constitution specifies the right to a secret ballot and in fact before the 1800's the US never had a secret ballot at all.

mike volpe said...

There's no right to an abortion or to privacy in the Constitution either. Yet, Madigan has no problem recognizing that right. In the 1800's, a woman's right to do most anything wasn't recognized. So, I'm not sure that the 1800's are a model for anything.

If you think that voting in front of others doesn't infringe on your right to vote, that's your problem.