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Did the Secret Ballot Act of 1872 create political democracy?

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Although Britain was taking great strides to become more democratic by 1867 by increasing the franchise, essential ingredients of democracy such as the right to vote free of intimidation and in secret were still missing from the political mix. This was due to the fact that voting was done in the open. Open voting required voters to announce their choice of candidate in public. This could lead to intimidation, threats and loss of homes and jobs if the voter did not support the choice of his employee. However, the Liberal Prime Minster William Gladstone took it upon himself to fix this anomaly in the democratic system by passing the Secret Ballot Act of 1872 which meant that all votes were cast in secret. Although this did result in secret voting, forms of bribery still continued. Due to the wealth of the candidates they could ?buy? votes by offering food and drink and even jobs to likely voters. To prevent this, the Conservative government passed the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act. ...read more.


Following the 1868 general election, a Select Committee was set up to investigate conduct at elections and it was specifically asked to examine whether a secret ballot should be introduced. The Select Committee recommended that a secret ballot should be introduced and, after a battle in Parliament, the Ballot Act became law in 1872. As a result, electors were to vote secretly marking a printed ballot paper with a cross and placing it in a sealed ballot box. Votes were to be counted in the presence of the candidates? agents. The 1872 Ballot Act was a significant step because it reflected a change in attitude towards the vote, O?Leary argues that: ?It was on the issue of the ballot that the Liberal Party as a whole came round to the radical view that the vote was a right, not a trust or a privilege.? By replacing the Hustings with the polling both, the Act ensured that voting came to be seen more as ?a political act rather than as a social occasion?. In addition, the Act was constitutionally important since it was an important step on the path to democracy. ...read more.


We can see this in source 8; it states that ?transformed political practice? ? referring to the Corrupt and Illegal practices act of 1883, the redistribution act of 1885 and the franchise act of 1884. This shows how political democracy could not be achieved by just the Secret Ballot Act, it relied on further reforms in order to make an impact. Also, Source 7 suggests that the Secret Ballot act did completely the opposite of creating a democracy, it shows us how ?boundaries looped off suburban area, adding the to the boroughs, and the vote was still one in twelve men?. This shows how the political system was still corrupt and was not turning into a democracy at all. In conclusion, I think that the Secret Ballot Act of 1872 created political democracy to some extent, but needed added support from further reforms. This is sustained in source 8. The problems faced in source 7 were needed to overcome the corruptness. The Secret Ballot act ?opened the door?. In short, the Secret Ballot act did not help at all on its own, but worked perfectly with the Corrupt and Illegal practices act, and together, removed most Hustings and brawls from elections. ...read more.

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