Secret Ballot HistoryThe secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices are confidential. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. It is also known as the Australian ballot, because it originated in Australia during the 1850s.
The demand for secret ballot was one of the six points of Chartism a political and social reform movement in the United Kingdom between 1838 and 1848. Chartism promoted such issues as voting by secret ballot, an end to the need for a property qualification for Parliament, equal-sized electoral districts, etc.
Some scholars believe Chartism was possibly the first mass working class labor movement in the world.
The use of a secret ballot in America was first deemed necessary to protect the voting rights of recently freed slaves after the Civil War. Voter intimidation during southern reconstruction was rampant, with African American first-time voters being threatened with physical violence, even lynching, based on how their publicly known ballots were cast.
The first President of the United States elected under the Australian ballot (secret ballot) was President Grover Cleveland in 1892. As Rep. Mark B. Cohen of Philadelphia, long active in election reform issues said, "The secret ballot guarantees that it is one's private opinion that counts. Open ballots are not truly free for those whose preferences defy structures of power or friendship."
From the lynchings of freed American slaves who dared to vote for the first time, to the purple-stained thumbs of voters in newly freed countries, the right to a secret ballot has been won through the spilled blood of freedom-loving patriots. It is the hallmark of a democratic society that must never be abridged.
USA Today - Our view on labor laws: No way to form a union
NationMaster.com - Encyclopedia entry
SourceWatch.com - Encyclopedia entry