Question: Have there ever been any surveys asking people if they think the secret ballot methodology currently used today is still a good idea in modern times?

Why I thought of this question for context only...

With all the accusations of wide spread voter fraud going on and even lawsuits being pursued by the [POTUS] highest political power in the US, citizens are going to take that serious so it is intriguing the secret ballot methodology which was adopted starting over 100 years ago has not transformed or evolved any to be more modernized.

In the United States, most states had moved to secret ballots soon after the presidential election of 1884. Kentucky was the last state to do so in 1891, when it quit using an oral ballot.


Since many millions of US citizens post who they support in an election via yard posters, on social media, bumper stickers, and so on it makes it very hard to understand what the secrecy of the ballot is really trying to accomplish or protect.

I've read and others have said when the secret ballot methodology was first introduced, the main concern was vote buying. It's reasonable to discern that vote buying can occur even with the current secret ballot methodology though.

Furthermore, it would seem reasonable to believe if there were methods for voter cast ballots to be verified by the individual voter (in a secure manner), that that could help alleviate lots of voter cast ballot fraud concerns.

Supporting Resources

  • 4
    +1, while there are strong arguments against open ballot I think this is a reasonable question that deserves an answer. It shouldn't be downvoted just because some people disagree with the idea. Dec 11, 2020 at 6:50
  • 5
    @defaultlocale I've downvoted because as phrased, it's not a question but a political argument. If OP edits the post to make it an actual objective question then I'll flip my downvote to an upvote.
    – gerrit
    Dec 11, 2020 at 7:31
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Dec 11, 2020 at 10:04
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    @PresidentBernieSanders You can remove everything before and after the paragraph starting with a bolded "Question".
    – gerrit
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:27
  • @gerrit Done, the question is right up top, and the context stuff and what I'd love to ask are below. It should be pretty clear what the actual question is and the other stuff is to explain why I am asking. Sounds like people are taking the context stuff for what I'm asking rather than why I'm asking. Dec 11, 2020 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


There are areas where it is illegal to even take a photo of your ballot because it would violate ballot secrecy. It should be noted that we used to have no secrecy in regarding to how you voted and in fact you used to vote just by party instead of selcting who you voted for.


Thanks to secret ballots, no one can confirm how you vote this November, but it wasn’t always that way. Voting used to be a public affair. The University of Virginia website recounts how eligible American voters — “all men in those days” — would do so either by viva voce (calling out their preferred candidates) or by depositing “a highly visible ticket in a box or transparent jar or hand[ing] it in to an election clerk.” In short, voting used to be a “mass spectacle,” a raucous affair that defined “the political worlds of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Lincoln.”

As was mentioned in comments the problem with a non secret ballot is it allows for other possibilities once people can confirm who you voted for.

  • You can get paid for voting a certain way.
  • You can get promoted/demoted/fired at work for voting a certain way.
  • People can threaten or commit acts of violence for voting a certain way.
  • You can be discredited in other various ways for voting a certain way.

In the end the secret ballot is there to help ensure the integrity of the ballot box and ensure that votes are not bought and voters are not intimidated, threatened or pressured to vote in a certain way.

Those in opposition claim that ballot selfies could “compromise elections” by encouraging vote buying. That is, a person who is being paid to vote a certain way can easily, and privately, prove she did so by taking a photo of her ballot.

Something to strongly consider is we do have business owners who strongly campaign for a candidate would it be a good thing if they could verify who their employees voted pay the ones who voted for the supported candidate?


Some research based on field experiments involving simulated threats to privacy (e.g. poll workers seemingly gleaning over to "see" whom the subject was voting for) as well as plain-old surveys have found that those who were most concerned about voting privacy/secrecy were those in a political minority in a given area.

This is in line with other findings on social-desirability bias, that e.g. face-to-face polling produces more skewed results than a seemingly "secret" questionnaire relative to the actually secret vote count. Such effects observed in the US were not large (a few percentage points), but enough to change a close election if it were conducted by non-secret polling.

I know none of that data actually answers the question how many would choose to abolish secret voting if given the opportunity, but it's what I could find in terms of empirical results on this matter.

Now the technological improvements towards anyone-can-in-theory-verify-the-results have been pursued under the E2E-V moniker. To date, there have been three small trials (two in actual elections and one in a "dummy" election.) I won't try to summarize all of that research here, but for example in the latest trial in the UK, this is the end-stage:

The polling station closed at 10:00 pm to mark the official end of the election. Seconds later, the tallying results for the e-voting trial were published at the election website along with full audit data (which can be downloaded as an XML file). The audit data was subsequently checked by the research team and was found to be verified successfully. The same verification could be performed by anyone using the provided open-source software or any independently developed software. The system recorded 93 confirmed ballots and 11 cancelled ballots, with a total of 94 participating voters. The apparent absence of one confirmed ballot was because one voter logged in to the tablet but chose to exit and eventually not to vote (this voter came to the polling station to cast a protest vote and wanted to do the same on the e-voting system).

(They also have a more layman-oriented press release with a video of the process.)

Now consider that to verify such a proof one needs to use software and also be an expert at fairly advanced cryptography to understand what's going on. In the era of massive fake news and "expert" statistical "proofs" that an election was stolen, what's to prevent even more complicated gobbledygook claims involving advanced crypto/math concepts that few layman can grasp well? In other words, when using such an E2E-V system, math/crypto geniuses can be convinced the election is not stolen, but most people would have to take their word for it... which isn't too far from trusting election officials and observers.

Slides from a researcher in the E2E-V field note that compared to the risk-limiting/Bayesian audits that assume somewhat trusted officials:

Public (E2E-verifiable) audit systems are

  • harder to build
  • harder to understand and explain
  • Nice find on those slides and very interesting detail with the E2E-V system and the skeptics post too. All very good points! Dec 11, 2020 at 2:48
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    That last factor is especially important because people are going to have to trust it if it's going to be of any use. Dec 14, 2020 at 14:46

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