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… anybody you like. Yes folks – election time is here. Council elections to be precise, which means a few hours paid work for your correspondent. As a general rule, the prospect of employment involves a week or so of special exercises known as “getting up early practice”, but on this occasion it’s a case of “staying up late practice”, as work starts at 9 p.m. and “may continue into the early hours”. So, although I may look as if I’m playing computer games reading improving literature and listening to the World Service until 2 a.m., the truth is that I’m realigning myself to the demands of the job market.

Anyone who’s involved in the administration of an election has to sign a declaration of secrecy. The principle of the secret ballot is taken so seriously that if anyone signs their ballot paper (and they do) it is rejected as a spoilt vote.

Election results for Oxford City Council 1841I’ve been reflecting on this since I came across a copy of Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 14th August 1841 whilst working on 19th century Quarter Session papers at the History Centre. Whilst it wasn’t surprising to find the results of recent City Council Elections, it was intriguing to see that the report consisted of a list of electors and who they voted for.

So here’s a thought – what would be the effect of abolishing the secret ballot and publishing everybody’s vote online? Would it put people off or make them take voting more seriously, because they might have to defend their action? Would it make people less likely to vote for extremist candidates? Would it help to stamp out electoral fraud?

In the spirit of the subject, I have prepared a poll …

Images : Photograph by permission of Oxfordshire History Centre