The Wikipedia article about the topic provides a list of benefits of this solution.

In particular:

(...) the elected members of a legislature who belong to a political party are usually required by that party to vote in accordance with the party line on significant legislation, on pain of censure or expulsion from the party. Sometimes a particular party member known as the whip is responsible for maintaining this party discipline. However, in the case of a conscience vote, a party declines to dictate an official party line to follow and members may vote as they please. (...)

If votes in parliament are anonymous, then all votes become conscience votes. The article however does not provide any disadvantages of that solution. Are there any?

  • 1
    Answer to a related question: politics.stackexchange.com/a/8021/300 Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 9:43
  • Thanks. It looks like a duplicate, although my question is generic in nature rather than being just about UK. Anyway that question was apparently closed as as primarily opinion-based. I am sure we can have another attempt at the topic and try to avoid opinion based answers. Instead I am looking for an objective list of cons (or at least one of them) with scientific or logical argument to back it up. I am sure that much smarter people dealt with the issue and came to conclusions. I understand the pros. I just could not find cons.
    – Eiver
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 10:44
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    What are we discussing? Secret voting in the parliament or conscience vote? That said, the linked question may be opinion based but the answer gives a clear explanation of motives against both conscience and secret voting.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 11:07
  • I am not sure about proper naming convention. But as I understand it: secret voting means that, the parliament votes in secret and nobody outside knows the result or that the vote even took place. Anonymous voting means, that voters are forced to cast their vote in secret (Secret ballot), but the result is public. That prevents "the whip" from interfering and causes such a vote to be a conscience vote as well.
    – Eiver
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 11:30
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    I read this the other way. It's not claiming that anonymous votes are common but asking if they should be. I.e. if you were voting on whether to make the typical vote anonymous, should you vote yes or no. It seems like there are a lot of small reasons favoring it but one big reason against it.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 3:35

1 Answer 1


The most obvious disadvantage is that then voters don't know what their representatives are voting. Take Donald Trump for example. In his public statements during his presidential campaign, he's said that he opposes immigration outside the legally-defined methods. In private, he apparently told the New York Times editorial board not to listen to his public statements, that he didn't actually mean it. Previous public statements indicate that he was supportive of the bill Rubio helped write, although Trump disparages that bill now.

Why is this problematic? It encourages candidates to engage in inflammatory rhetoric. Trump at least could be held accountable if he reversed his behavior in office. It could hinder a reelection attempt. But for a legislator, their votes are everything. A legislator could publicly support legislation, anonymously vote against it, and then publicly denounce others for voting against it. This is fine for the legislators but hard on voters.

How would voters know for whom to vote? It's hard enough to guess how candidates will vote once in office. If votes were anonymous, then one couldn't even evaluate incumbent candidates. If you don't know who the best candidate is, then why vote? Publicly, every candidate would be in favor of whatever is popular. Privately, they'd behave differently. Turnout would likely drop precipitously, as voting has no effect.

This takes away the one great advantage of democracy, that everyone feels like they have a stake in the system. With this, we'd have essentially created an oligarchy of the best liars. People who wanted to change the system would have to resort to the old standby: violent revolution.

If this really interests you, there are systems in which it could work. The problem with it is that it makes voting for candidates not work. So stop selecting candidates via votes. Instead, randomly select a few thousand voters and draft them as legislators. Let their votes be anonymous. The downside of that of course is that the average citizen has no experience in writing or even reading legislation. Laws might be even worse written than they are now.

  • That convinces me. So to summarize we have: no way to evaluate politicians and remove incompetent ones; a blame game, were everyone would accuse each other why the result of a vote was bad and a tendency towards oligarchy as politicians would likely choose whats best for themselves while promising people whatever they want to hear. That definitely enough to reject the idea.
    – Eiver
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:34

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