Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Secret Democrat

A fascinating little fight is brewing just a few miles south of us in Washington State.

On Tuesday, voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against a ballot that will extend gay rights in many aways other than a full declaration of marriage.

At issue is who gets to see the names of the people who have signed petitions.

One would think at first blush that anyone who signs a petition of almost any kind should have the fibre to stand up and be counted.

But the Law of Unintended Consequences has come into play in the shape of the Internet.

Suddenly, in a country where referenda and open ballots often change laws faster than legislative bodies, some people want to know how you voted.


So they can harass you, because you didn't agree with their group.

This would be a clear invasion of privacy.

We may not have the urgency of such a dilemma here in Canada, but the question is still a good one.

Should your vote or signature on a ballot be made public?


Anonymous said...

David, a few years ago myself and 50 co workers voted on a cllective agreement. We turned it down 39 against and 11 for.

The next day the company owner came on the radio (a trucking company) and threatened to close the company. All of a sudden most of the fleet became gutless and you couldnt find a driver that voted no.

In our current economic climate with the make up of the work force being what it is even a secret ballot barely protects democracy. Thank God that we dont have to dip our thumbs in puple dye to prove that we have voted .

Without secret ballots we might as well give up and call ourselves a third world dictatorship.

david said...

you want to see where this leads, check out what's happening in gay old frisco re prop 8. and lets hope you have the same opinion when your on the other side of the issue, ie it doesn't go your way.

David Berner said...

Did I exprss an opinion?

I don't think so.

I prsented an interesting dilemma and asked for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Petitions - with potentially fake names - should never be allowed to influence legislation or policy.

The US has a decent system for referenda and propositions. But that country still needs to clean its system of voter registration. Until then, all US elections will be suspect.

What's that old saying?
"From small acorns mighty oaks grow."
It should come with a caveat: If the acorns are hollow, there shall be no oaks.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago I read an article in The New Yorker that looked at the development of the secret ballot in the US. I was surprised to read that secret ballots have only been used extensively for 100 or so years. Voters had to carry their own ballots to the voting place. Ballots were not supplied for them. Often different candidates used paper that had a different colour from those used by opponents. The prevailing attitude was that one should be very public on where one stood politically, and that secret ballots were only for those who had questionable intentions. This was a real problem for one fellow who was walking peacefully to vote, ballots in hand (showing who he supported), when he was set upon and beaten to death by thugs from the opposition group.

Could making names on petitions public lead to harrassment (or worse)? I believe so. A certain nastiness has become entrenched in politics over the last decade or so. I'm sure that some groups out there would love to find a way to bully and intimidate people who disagree with their views.

Craig Y.

Anonymous said...

David, perhaps I didn't make myself clear.

No one should ever know how you voted. Ever. Period.

Anonymous said...

Your name on a petition? Not a vote. A petition by nature must be made public. No?

Jeff Taylor said...

NO ! 100 percent our votes should be a private matter. Voting is the only thing we as a free society (we aren't really free. Who asked me for my opinion of the GM bailout ?) have to exercise what little power we the people actually have. Having said that, I'm sure there's many people living in Florida still to this day wonder what happened in that famous election.

David Berner said...


Anonymous said...

Furthermore, political parties and their backers own many polling companies in Canada, the US and elsewhere - offering them the potential to use their supporter lists to find demographically neutral respondents, whose political positions are known.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.