In 1872, Gladstone introduced the Ballot Act, which required that British general elections to Parliament and local government election use the secret ballot. Previously employers or land owners were able to use their sway over their employees to influence the vote, by being present or sending representatives to check on votes.
The principle of a secret ballot had long been campaigned for by radicals such as the Chartists. The 1867 Reform Act enfranchised the skilled working class in borough constituencies and it was felt that, due to their economic circumstances, these voters would be much more susceptible to bribery, intimidation and blackmail. The radical, John Bright expressed concerns that tenants would face the threat of eviction were they to vote against the wishes of their landlord.
Many within the establishment had opposed the introduction of a secret ballot. They felt that pressure from patrons on tenants was legitimate and that a secret ballot was simply unmanly and cowardly. Lord Russell voiced his opposition to the creation of a culture of secrecy in elections which he believed should be public affairs. He saw it as 'an obvious prelude from household to universal suffrage'.
However, many historians believe that the secret ballot failed in its attempt to remove corruption from British politics as election spending was, at the time, unlimited and many voters would take bribes from both sides. The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act of 1883 is seen by many to have been the key legislation in the attempts to end electoral corruption.
Three of a match.('Michael Davitt: From the Gaelic American', 'Words of the Dead Chief: Charles Stewart Parnell' and 'Parnell to Pearse: Some Recollections and Reflections' )(Book review)
Sep 22, 2010; JOHN DEVOY Michael Davitt. From the Gaelic American Edited by Carla King & W. J. McCormack UCD Press. Dublin, 2008. 20 [euro] C....