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Vote-tracing in disputed elections

 Comparative Reports of the virtues of ‘secure voting’ versus ‘secret voting’
to guide the British government as to which system to adopt in 1871-
that which allowed vote-tracing or that which did not.

The Colonial Secretary, Lord Kimberley asked the Australian Governors if “the power of identification of the voter had been used for purposes not contemplated by the law, or has tended to diminish the security which the system of secret voting was intended to give to the voter.”   

1. Report - Viscount Canterbury, Governor of Victoria on the success of the ‘secure vote.’
“The system in operation here, which imposes no obstacle to a scrutiny, is far superior to any system under which a secret vote is cast. The secrecy intended to afford a vote has not been practically diminished by the power of identification. Any inability to institute an efficient scrutiny, after an election is closed, may become a powerful incentive to the use of illegal means for procuring a colourable majority at the poll
(Dispatches to Governor.N.S.W. 1871 370l.”

2.  Report – Earl of Belmore, Governor of New South Wales on the failing of the ‘secret ballot.’
“(Im) personation is not happily put down. It is said that, in regard to this offence, the Victorian system is better than ours. That (im) personation is so often attempted in New South Wales arises in some degree from the lax way in which the returning and presiding officers deal with those detected in attempting to commit fraud. There is also an apparent unwillingness to prosecute offenders. The feeling is very prevalent that, after the election is over, all animosity should cease. There is the possibility that on both sides the friends of the candidates are open to the charge. The evil is a serious one. I have no doubt our Legislature will have to provide more effective machinery for detecting and punishing those who are guilty of committing the offence (op cit.364)."

3. Report – Mr. Du Cane, Governor of Tasmania, on problems of the ‘absolute secret ballot.
“Absolute secrecy leads to the impossibility of subsequently discovering how any voter’s vote had been actually given. It would rather tend, than not, to facilitate the entering into such corrupt compacts by rendering the chances of their subsequent detection extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible. There would, under any system of absolute secrecy, always be the danger of candidates, and their agents being able to enter in corrupt compacts with a number of the constituency sufficient to turn the election on the understanding that the return of the candidate was to be the condition of payment. This was particularly the case where the opportunity for great ambitions existed
(op cit 382).”

4. Report - Sir James Ferguson, Governor of South Australia, on its ‘absolute secret ballot’. 
“It had proved popular, peaceful and free of political excitement. Personation, intimidation and bribery had been extremely rare. Treating, certainly, had been resorted to on ‘a pretty large and extensive scale, and no doubt idle and destitute voters were accessible to trifling inducements to give pledged votes – but not on a scale to affect the result. It cannot be said as yet to have felt the strain of trial, or to have had brought to bear on it the ingenuity of zealous and unscrupulous manipulators
(op cit 379).”

"That the electoral system is open to manipulation is beyond question
 ... Fraudulent enrolment is almost impossible to prevent."

(NSW Electoral Commissioners, Messrs R. Cundy and Ian Dickson, NSW Government Inquiry 1989)

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