November 18, 2008

How Voting Has Changed in America

Voting in America, it's fair to say, used to be different. Very different!

The United States was founded as an experiment in eighteenth-century republicanism, in which it was understood that only men with property would vote, and they voted publicly. Americans used to vote with their voices - or with their hands or feet. Yea or nay. Raise your hand. All in favor of Jones, stand on this side of the town common; if you support Smith, line up over there. In the colonies, as in the mother country, casting a vote rarely required paper and pen. Our forebears considered casting a "secret ballot" cowardly, underhanded, and despicable; as one South Carolinian put it, voting secretly would "destroy that noble generous openess that is characteristick of an Englishman."

How things have changed.

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