The ballot is typically thought to be the least interesting and most unproblematic political institution. Nevertheless, the pervasive assumption, that secret voting keeps elections free of corruption and intimidation, is erroneous. Through a discussion of the debates and issues surrounding the passage of the Ballot Act of 1872, and of the ballot in general, a new interpretation is developed of the background and consequences of secret voting. It is shown that particular emotions are crucial in support for the ballot, and, more important, that a major impact of the ballot is the production of a characteristic set of emotional patterns that have consequences not just for the act of voting itself, but for the wider structure of the political system and its operations.

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