Secret Ballots and unintended consequences

S Aufrecht

[In 1888], in Kentucky, a state still voting viva voce, the legislature attempted the reform in Louisville. After the voting that year, an observer wrote to The Nation, “The election last Tuesday was the first municipal election I have ever known which was not bought outright.”

A government-printed ballot that voters had, even minimally, to read made it much harder for immigrants, former slaves, and the uneducated poor to vote. Some precincts formally imposed and selectively administered literacy tests; others resorted to ranker chicanery. … The year after Arkansas passed its Australian-ballot law, the percentage of black men who managed to vote dropped from seventy-one to thirty-eight

—Jill Lepore, New Yorker