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In the United States, the general population votes for a president with secret ballots. However, the electoral college votes aren't secret and because of that, we know which person is a "faithless elector". For instance, we know that Barbara Lett-Simmons was a faithless elector in the 2000 presidential race.

Why is it that these electoral college votes are not secret, at least on the state level? Could a state decide to make it secret by allowing electors to, for instance, stick their ballots into a box and shuffle them before being counted?

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    I don't know the exact answer, but if they were secret, it'd kind of make the whole thing pointless, as they could just ignore their constituent vote entirely and vote for whoever they personally wanted with zero repercussions. – user1530 Dec 19 '16 at 6:15
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    The general population does not vote for the president. – Drunk Cynic Dec 19 '16 at 7:45
  • It is worth noting that the secret ballot was not widely used in the U.S. until 1884 almost a century after the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1789, and the practice was not universal until 1891. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_ballot#United_States The tradition of non-secret electoral college ballots was well entrenched by then, and anti-machine politics progressive reforms that gave rise to the secret ballot weren't intended to address the kind of issues faced by the electoral college. – ohwilleke Dec 23 '16 at 19:19
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Could a state decide to make it secret by allowing electors to, for instance, stick their ballots into a box and shuffle them before being counted?

In some states, they are secret (or at least have been). For example, in Minnesota in 2004 (since changed). So yes, they could make them secret on a state by state basis.

In general, they aren't secret because electors are elected officials. They are supposed to vote in a way consistent with the intentions of the voters who selected them. Anonymous votes don't allow for review. And votes aren't that anonymous regardless. In the normal case where all the electors in a state vote the same, the votes are public even if counted in secret.

Even in the case where the electors split, there are a limited number of electors. There are only 538 electors total, and at most 55 in any one state. In some states (and the District of Columbia) there are as few as 3. It's not exactly like there are hundreds of votes as in a precinct.

  • (1) they aren't secret because electors are elected officials. Calling electors "elected officials" could be somewhat misleading. They are mostly just nominated by the party without a pay. They don't do anything but vote. (2) They are supposed to vote in a way consistent with the intentions of the voters who selected them. I would say "They are ... in a way consistent with the intentions of the voters who voted for the winning candidate/party (president). Voters don't select them. Voters select a candidate/party for whom electors pledged to vote. – Rathony Dec 19 '16 at 15:48
  • "supposed to" is a little tricky. The people appointing them (and often the same people have influence over the state laws) certainly know how they want electors to vote, but the people supposing are the writers of the constitution and interpretation of their ideas varies. – user9389 Dec 19 '16 at 16:48
  • "Calling electors "elected officials" could be somewhat misleading." Well, technically a vote in the general election is a vote for a bank of electors, so yes they are elected. – eques Nov 5 '18 at 14:34
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You should note that electors are generally party loyalists who will not vote faithlessly. Very rarely, there are some who vote faithlessly and they will be either punished by a state or by their political parties. In other words,

a faithless elector runs the risk of party censure and political retaliation from their party, as well as potential legal penalties in some states. Candidates for elector are nominated by state political parties in the months prior to Election Day.

[Wikipedia: Faithless elector]

There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

[Source: About the Electors in www.archives.gov]

(emphasis mine)

Why is it that these electoral college votes are not secret?

As explained in the link and quote, they are bound by state law or have already pledged to political parties. They are party loyalists and they don't mind their votes being not secret. To their view, they are not voting their conscience, they are voting as pledged or bound.

Could a state decide to make it secret by allowing electors to, for instance, stick their ballots into a box and shuffle them before being counted?

Again, there is no reason to make their votes anonymous as the election result is de facto decided by the popular vote and electors vote just to confirm the result.

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    Comments deleted. Please don't get baited into pointless flamewars. – Philipp Dec 19 '16 at 13:59
  • @Philipp Thanks. You made my day. Can I flag those comments in the future? – Rathony Dec 19 '16 at 14:05
  • "This is not a state issue but a federal issue". Could you clarify, as is it not the case (as you suggest earlier) that it is up to states to decide these kinds of details? – Steve Melnikoff Dec 19 '16 at 14:42
  • @Rathony If you feel that a comment discussion is getting long, or that it has taken an nonconstructive turn, you can certainly flag it. You can either flag individual comments, or use a single custom flag explaining your concerns. – yannis Dec 19 '16 at 14:46
  • @SteveMelnikoff I think it could be misleading. I will edit the answer. – Rathony Dec 19 '16 at 15:15

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