POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Voter Secrecy

Voter secrecy, also known as secrecy of the ballot or secret ballot, is a fundamental democratic principle whereby voters are free to anonymously cast their vote in an election or referendum. The concept of voter secrecy was implemented to stop the practice of powerful persons or groups coercing voters into choosing a particular candidate.

The secret ballot was widely adopted throughout the United States by the end of the 19th century. However, the first place to enjoy widespread implementation of the secret ballot was Australia, after the mid-19th century gold rush led to an armed rebellion of miners against the government. Gold miners in the Australian colonies were heavily influenced by the ideas of the working class chartist movement, whose demands for democratic reform included voter secrecy.

The concept of voter secrecy has come a long way since its origins in the 19th century. Today it is possible ensure the secrecy of the ballot in online elections.

See also: Ballot Box Election, Online Voting, IT security

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