Nugget of Knowledge: Voting reform in America

Australia was the model for U.S. voting reform

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Back in the 19th century, Election Day in America worked differently than it does now. There was even more drama, if you can believe that, in 2016.

There were no official ballots. Political parties would print their own “party tickets.”

You picked up a ticket and voted for everyone on it. Everyone saw your vote. There was no privacy.

In Kentucky, people actually voted by voice until almost 1900.

Partisans would round up people and get them to the polls to cast their party tickets and keep other parties’ voters away with fists, knives, guns, or any other means.

By the 1880s, ballot reformers were looking for a new way to run elections. They found it in Australia, the first county to have an official ballot listing everyone, and it was secret, too.

You also voted in a private booth, and each state could invent its own, just as long as no one could see you.

Each state developed its own quirky requirements.

New Hampshire had a law that the booths’ curtains had to extend down to the ankle.

To this day, there is no centralized requirement for voting booth design. Each state has its own rules, and often it’s up to county clerks and other election officials to make sure voters have a place to vote-in private.

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