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Government Privacy The Courts United States

Federal Judge Says No Right To Secret Ballot, OKs Barcoded Ballots 584

doug141 writes "A Colorado county put bar codes on printed ballots in a last minute effort to comply with a rule about eliminating identifying markings. Citizens sued, because the bar codes can still be traced back to individual voters. In a surprise ruling, Denver U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello said the U.S. Constitution did not contain a 'fundamental right' to secret ballots, and that the citizens could not show their voting rights had been violated, nor that they might suffer any specific injury from the bar codes."
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Federal Judge Says No Right To Secret Ballot, OKs Barcoded Ballots

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  • by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:43AM (#41420825)
    From the article and it's referenced information, namely Secretary of State Scott Gessler's guidelines on the matter, ballots were to include limited identifying marks to ensure that the same ballot would not be counted twice when votes were tabulated, but that individuals would not have their ball it's unique identifier linked to their voter registration.

    What is changing here is that rather than a human-readable number, a barcode-only solution will be used for verification purposes to increase the difficulty of an individual vote being traced to a person.

    The fact that Gessler's also identified multiple illegal immigrants who had voted in the former Colorado election through voter registration searches is irrelevant to the situation at hand.
  • Lawsuit was bogus (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @10:45AM (#41420847)
    If you take the time to learn what information is actually on the ballot [] you'll see that the lawsuit has no merit. The barcode relates the ballot to what was scanned when the vote was automatically tallied in case there are errors or a recount. Any possibility that the ballot could be linked back to an individual voter was speculation, the plaintiffs couldn't produce any evidence that it could actually happen.
  • Quick reading (Score:4, Informative)

    by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:02AM (#41420963) Journal
    Some skimming around the internet on this subject is fairly interesting. Australia was the first country to implement the secret ballot in 1850, largely to curtail intimidation and other election day shennanigans that were used to influence elections. All elections in the US were secret ballot by the 1892 presidential election. However, this article in the Atlantic argues that the surest way to increase turnout is by making voting a matter of public record. []
  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:16AM (#41421063)
    You've never read any Constitutional history, have you?

    I go further and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?

    - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper #84 []

    Or even the Declaration of Independence:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

    Bonus points for reading political philosophy.

    It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect - that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few.

    -Thomas Paine []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:17AM (#41421073)

    Anonymous ballots do NOT let you wote 100 times. When I vote, they cross my name off from the list of voters. So I can't vote again. The ballot is anonymous though - or it would be if I took care not to leave fingerprints.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:28AM (#41421169)


    It IS a joke.

    Trying to implement the standards for a free and fair election per the Intra-Parliamentary Union in the US will get you labelled RAAACIST by "progressives".


    4. The Rights and Responsibilities of States

    (1) States should take the necessary legislative steps and other measures, in accordance with their constitutional processes, to guarantee the rights and institutional framework for periodic and genuine, free and fair elections, in accordance with their obligations under international law. In particular, States should:

            Establish an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters;
            Establish clear criteria for the registration of voters, such as age, citizenship and residence, and ensure that such provisions are applied without distinction of any kind;
            Provide for the formation and free functioning of political parties, possibly regulate the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns, ensure the separation of party and State, and establish the conditions for competition in legislative elections on an equitable basis;
            Initiate or facilitate national programmes of civic education, to ensure that the population are familiar with election procedures and issues;

    (2) In addition, States should take the necessary policy and institutional steps to ensure the progressive achievement and consolidation of democratic goals, including through the establishment of a neutral, impartial or balanced mechanism for the management of elections. In so doing, they should, among other matters:

            Ensure that those responsible for the various aspects of the election are trained and act impartially, and that coherent voting procedures are established and made known to the voting public;
            Ensure the registration of voters, updating of electoral rolls and balloting procedures, with the assistance of national and international observers as appropriate;
            Encourage parties, candidates and the media to accept and adopt a Code of Conduct to govern the election campaign and the polling period;
          Ensure the integrity of the ballot through appropriate measures to prevent multiple voting or voting by those not entitled thereto;
            Ensure the integrity of the process for counting votes.

    Yeah - try applying those bolded words to elections in the US and you're RAAACIST!!!!

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:42AM (#41421289) Homepage

    It's an often repeated argument, but it is not correct nevertheless.

    A structure is democratic if it provides the means to remove the ruling entity from power without bloodshed or revolution. So a republic can be democratic, if it's possible to remove the rulers of the republic form power using means provided in the constitution of the republic. A republic gets more and more undemocratic if it gets more and more complicated to legally remove someone from power, be it, because the laws build more and more hurdles to do so, or because traditions get more and more entrenched and any changes are frowned upon, or if a group within the structure is completely removed from power.

  • The judge is right. (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjh ( 40933 ) <> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @11:57AM (#41421417)

    There is no Constitutional right to a secret ballot.

    In the State of Oregon, all voting is done by absentee ballot. There's no privacy screen around you as you cast your vote. Your employer can stop by and say, "I'll pay you $1000 for your unused ballot, so I can fill it out how I want and submit it." If you're in an abusive family, your domineering alcoholic bipolar parent might force you to fill out the absentee ballot in front of them so they can control how you vote. There is no way the absentee ballot is considered a secret ballot, and yet we have no trouble when an entire state converts to voting by absentee ballot.

    The State of West Virginia guarantees, in its state constitution, every resident's right to cast a public ballot. There's no mention of the secret ballot.

    The secret ballot wasn't in use anywhere in the United States until it was first adopted by the city of Louisville, Kentucky, in 1888. The State of Massachusetts followed soon after. The first President to be elected by secret ballot was Grover Cleveland, in 1892.

    We didn't use secret ballots to elect Washington, Jefferson, Jackson or Lincoln.

    So, yeah. Anyone who claims we have a constitutional right to a secret ballot has an uphill road to hoe. History clearly shows that at no point in our nation's history has any court held the secret ballot to be a right.

  • by rjh ( 40933 ) <> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:00PM (#41421447)

    The secret ballot wasn't in use anywhere in the United States until 1888. The secret ballot cannot be something the Framers envisioned as one of our natural rights, because the secret ballot wasn't even invented until the 1850s. (Seriously.)

    If this nation conducted its presidential elections by a variety of non-secret ballot systems from 1792 to 1892, it's hard for me to take you seriously when you say that the secret ballot is a fundamental right.

  • by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:07PM (#41421511)
    In Oregon (which is 100% vote by mail), there is also a bar code on the mailing envelope. You sign the mailing envelope and your signature is verified against the one on file. The bar code is not a problem however because your actual ballot is in a separate "secrecy" envelope that you put inside the mailing envelope. There are no identifying marks on the secrecy envelope or the ballot itself. At the elections office one person verifies your signature, marks the record that you have voted, and takes the secrecy envelope out of the mailing envelope. The secrecy envelope is placed in a big box. Next, someone else take the big box, extracts the ballots from the secrecy envelopes and feeds the ballots into a scanner (they are "bubble sheet" ballots), where they are tallied. Representatives from the political parties and the public are encouraged to watch the process in person.

    For those that don't like the concept of paying postage to vote, there are a wide variety of locations where you can hand deliver your ballot.

    For those not in the US, Oregon is a state in the Northwest portion of the country.
  • by Mitchell314 ( 1576581 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:38PM (#41421751)
    We are both a republic and a democracy; they are far from mutually exclusive terms. Republic governments have representatives on behalf of the people (or at least pretend to), Democratic governments have their citizens vote on government matters. Our form of government has citizens vote in local, state, and national elections for representatives of the people, hence being both. A direct democracy is a particular case of democracy where the citizens are the government themselves, thus a case of a democracy that is not a republic. A government that has representatives of the people but the people have no say in the matter is a non-democratic republic.

    You don't really see pure republics or pure democracies in large, modern, 'free' western governments.
  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:39PM (#41421757) Homepage Journal
    I was under the impression that the United States practiced secret voting as specified under the Bill of Rights or the Constitution but apparently its just a method, it was known as "Australian Voting" in the 1800's, and its not specified under any of our foundation documents, as far as I can tell. Should be I think. I can't envision a strong democracy without it. Its been practiced here in all the jurisdictions I've ever voted in.
  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @12:49PM (#41421847)

    Hmm, the US is one of the first nations in history to elect their leaders. Do you think it's just possible that in the course of a couple centuries we've discovered additional safeguards that are fundamentally required for elections to actually serve their purpose? We got lots of first-hand experience about how non-secret ballots become a farce that just solidifies the power of those who can coerce your vote.

    Moreover, just because a right isn't codified in the constitution doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Straight from the Bill of Rights:
    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. i.e. you're not even legally permitted to argue that the enumerated rights are more important than implicit one, much less that the implicit rights don't exist
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    Those two were specifically added because the Federalists were afraid that the codification of certain rights would be used as an excuse to implicitly revoke others. Surprise, surprise, they've been proven right time and time again since then.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @01:35PM (#41422227) Homepage Journal

    The term "Democratic" and its various forms can legitimately mean two different things:

    1) An entity in which all decisions are made by popular vote.

    2) An entity in which the government is highly accountable to the governed and, implicitly, in which those who govern are easily replaced by the governed in a democratic (meaning #1 above, by popular vote) manner.

    An entity can be very democratic in the first sense even if one major decision - who will chair meetings - is not done democratically. If the person who chairs meetings is basically a figurehead with no real power, then not much harm is done in not having him elected.

    An entity can be mostly democratic in the second sense even if no decisions other than electing who will govern are made by the governed.

  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @01:43PM (#41422305)

    Sounds like you need to read up on democracy in Switzerland. []

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:34PM (#41422659)
    It's ironic that conservatives complain about poor, elderly, and disabled people and all their "entitlements," all while acting completely oblivious to how ridiculously entitled they act themselves. " I have no trouble taking time off work to drive my car over to the local DMV, which is open six days a week, and showing them all the paperwork my parents and I stored safely in a fireproof filing cabinet since the day I was born. How could it not be that easy for everyone else??"

    Many poor people work shit jobs (often TWO shit jobs). For some of these, "hey boss, I've got to take a day off" risks being interpreted as "hey boss, I'm a lazy fuck, fire me hire someone else to wash these dishes." And regardless, for all of them taking a day off work is a day with no pay - and that is no small cost to someone living on tiny margins.

    I already hear you getting indignant. But getting an ID at the DMV doesn't take a full day! For you, with your open-six-days-a-week suburban DMV, sure. For you, who can hop into your own car and drive straight there, sure. Many of the poor, elderly, and disabled can't do that; they have to take public transportation (if available in their area; for rural areas this isn't even an option), find someone else to drive them (does that person have to take work off too?), or hire a taxi. In many areas (particularly rural), the DMV is quite a distance away, or is only open four, or two, or 1 day(s) a month (requiring either an expensive multi-hour drive into the city, or dealing with long waits on the few days it is open).

    And having the requisite paperwork at hand isn't the easiest thing for everyone, either. Sure, your parents made sure to keep track of your birth certificate for you; by the time you were 5 your parents got you a passport, at 16 you had a driver's license. You became an adult with a wealth of well-organized paperwork defining who you are. Not everyone has that advantage. Some people have no idea where their birth certificates went; some people never got birth certificates at all, either because their parents didn't handle paperwork properly, or because they were born in a time when such things weren't even available (ie. elderly in rural areas). Most poor people don't get passports for obvious reasons. Many don't have licenses either, if they cannot afford cars (poor), are incapable of driving (disabled/elderly), or have no need to drive (elderly). Some do have birth certificates, but ones that are no longer valid (pretty much every Puerto Rican in this country). Some have ID, but that ID is for various reasons not considered valid under the law (others in this thread have described those already). Getting an ID without already having the requisite paperwork in order is orders of magnitude harder, and requires many more fees and many more days off work to stand in lines at different government offices.

    What it boils down to is this: Do these laws help more than they hurt? This country has had (iirc) about a hundred documented cases of in-person voter fraud in the past decade. A hundred. In ten years. There are literally millions of registered voters with no government-issued ID. For your argument's sake, let's assume voter fraud is 100x what it is (10,000) and that only 1/100th of the un-IDed registered voters (10,000) are going to be unable to get IDs due to various hardships: at that point, with everything heavily skewed in your favor, we barely break even in the number-of-affected-votes statistic, and that is after making the poor, disabled, and elderly jump through a bunch of time consuming and expensive hoops.

    It is clear to anyone with even half a brain that this is not about insuring the integrity of the voting process, since in will clearly disenfranchise far more people than it will stop from committing fraud. It's about intentionally disenfranchising the poor, who tend to vote Democrat.

    And Republicans are happy to admit it [].
  • Coke vs. Pepsi!?!?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @02:45PM (#41422727)

    "Hell its Coke VS Pepsi!"

    This is so wrong it's offensive. You need to get your facts in order before you say such absurd things.

    The manufacturers of Coke and Pepsi are in competition.

    We're never goig to get anywhere with them through voting. I think we should apply anti-trust legislation to them. Did you know that they own the debates? Together (yes, they work together on it) they manage and own the "presidential debates" we see on TV. It used to be run by the league of women voters, but the two parties, who share power and whose only real enemy is a third party, leveraged it away from them. You cannot have another voice in the discussion. Hell, you cannot even have a discussion. []

    The reason you're wrong is this isn't Coke vs. Pepsi at all. It's Coke vs. Coke in a collectable can.

  • by Larryish ( 1215510 ) <<larryish> <at> <>> on Saturday September 22, 2012 @05:32PM (#41423803)

    Lucky you.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:55PM (#41424945)
    Since you seem to be getting upmodded, I'm going to respond to this.

    You need an ID to do almost anything these days. I personally think that's wrong, but it's a reality.

    The only things I can remember hauling my ID out for over the past year are (1) paying with credit cards (because I never bother to sign them; if the card is signed, retailers are not allowed to ask for ID), (2) when I got a speeding ticket (not an issue for those who don't drive), and (3) for companies to hold on to when they want some kind of temporary collateral for a rental (i.e. renting paintball equipment). Perhaps your lifestyle requires frequent use of ID, but there are plenty of ways to live that do not. Note also that many places that ask you for ID do it simply because it is the easiest route; if you don't have a government-issued photo ID, most of them will be happy to switch to an alternate method (for example, utility companies).

    I have not met anyone who does not have an ID of any sort. I have known and been dirt poor, homeless, and destitute in my life. I still had an ID.

    Your anecdotal evidence is irrelevant. Studies show that in Pennsylvania alone there is anywhere between 3/4 to 1.5 million voters without ID []; even the people who support the voter ID laws and claim those studies are overestimating the issue claim it's at least 100,000 people. The fact that you don't know these people doesn't mean shit; they are voters with a constitutional right to vote whether you like it or not.

    It is the only way to efficiently prevent the rampant voter fraud that is happening in certain important counties in this county that largely decide the fate of the entire nation.

    What rampant voter fraud? There is no evidence of any kind of "rampant" in-person voter fraud. None. There is a handful of cases in any particular year []. When the state of Pennsylvania got sued over their new voter ID laws, they acknowledged in-person voter fraud has never been a problem []. So why is the law necessary again?


    That is a good tag for your post.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI