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The voting experience and beliefs about ballot secrecy


New democracies go to great lengths to implement institutional protections of the electoral process. However, in this paper we present evidence that shows that even in the United States-where the secret ballot has been in place for generations-doubts about the secrecy of the voting process are surprisingly prevalent. Many say that their cast ballot can be matched to their name or that others could observe their vote choices while they were voting. We find that people who have not previously voted are particularly likely to harbor doubts about the secrecy of voters' ballots. Those who vote by mail in the privacy of their own homes also feel that others are able to discover their vote choices. Taken together, these findings suggest an important divergence between public perceptions about and the institutional status of the secret ballot in the United States, a divergence that may affect patterns of voting behavior and political participation.

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