Secret Ballot System: Merits, Demerits, Effects in Democracy

secret ballot all details

While talking about the secret ballot system of voting, we cannot ignore the open ballot system either. How the former replaced the latter in most of the countries in the recent world will only make us conclude that it is this system which is considered ‘better’ by the people. And, we may not even deny that. The secret ballot system has changed the face if elections to a large extent. It has given people more power to exercise their right to vote without fear. However, just like any other system, it has its drawbacks. Though initially, it may seem the secret ballot system is a flawless one, with a deeper look we start recognizing its problems, along with the advantages of an open ballot system.

For a thorough understanding of the system, we first need to understand that there isn’t just one type of secret voting. In different regions, there are various levels of secrecy, which all serve a different purpose. The strongest of them is to make the vote untraceable, where even the voter himself won’t be able to recognize his own vote. A level weaker than this is anonymous voting, wherein the voter’s recorded vote may be recognized by the voter but not by others. Then comes private voting, in which a voter can keep their recorded vote a secret, but may reveal it to others verifiably. Here voting is private, but not anonymous. Lastly comes confidential voting, in which a voter can keep their recorded vote a secret from the general public, but it is knowable by the officials.

Now that we have a deeper understanding of the functioning of the secret ballot system, we can make a comparison with the open ballot system to figure out the merits and demerits of the former. The open ballot system encourages vote selling or bribery and forces the voters to give in to the demands of their employers or favourer. This makes the vote biased. Secret ballot here lets the voter vote without fear of his employee and closes the option of bribery. In the secret ballot system, as the voter mostly does not recognize even his own vote, there are no options to undo a vote which could lead to confusion. Though wrong voting may affect the results, reversal of votes would only complicate the process and might not affect the results positively either.

However, the demerits of this system include what cannot be seen in plain sight. A secret ballot makes the voter detached from the process of election and makes him take decisions irresponsibly. It becomes more of a personal task than public duty. This may also lead the voters to make uninformed decisions. With the secret ballot system, there is an indirect discouragement for participation as there is no identity role-playing in the results. Moreover, as men live in a society, the discussion about their affiliations cannot be completely avoided and it only makes the process lose its relevance.

Hence, my point was not to draw a conclusion about which is a more beneficial system but to bring to the forefront how every system has its merits and demerits and it is important for us to recognize them and work accordingly for their betterment.

Dishari Roy , Student at JNU