“Since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?” – James Phillip Hoffa, March 10, 2009.
Before ramming the Employee Free Choice Act down the throats of American workers, maybe Jim Hoffa and his Teamsters should have cracked open the history books. The secret ballot, like democracy itself, was born in classical Antiquity. Ironically, given Big Labor’s backing of EFCA, modern usage of the secret ballot originated within the organized labor movement: A demand for secret ballot elections was one of the six original points of Chartism—a U.K. organization considered by many to be the world’s first mass working class labor movement.
In the United States, the secret ballot was critical to defending newly-freed slaves’ right to vote. The perils of the open ballot were made plain when, after the Civil War, African-American voters were routinely targeted for physical attacks if they failed to vote for certain candidates. It was only when the secret ballot was introduced that democracy finally began to spread across the Reconstructionist South.
For the past several centuries, the greatest defender of democracy—particularly for working class and newly enfranchised—has been the secret ballot. And given the EFCA agenda cooked up by Hoffa and Big Labor, that’s one history lesson worth remembering.