Thursday July 21, 2005
By Alice Mullaly
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
We haven't always voted by secret ballot in Oregon. It wasn't until 1891 that the Oregon Legislature passed what was called the Australian Ballot Law calling for ballots to be published and provided by the state, and voting booths by the counties, so one could fill out a ballot in private.
How did people vote before the secret ballot? Well, they took their own ballot to the polling place. A man filled out some piece of paper with the names and offices of those he was voting for. Or political parties provided ballots for voters. Party ballots often were brightly colored or carried a party emblem on them. Sometimes if a voter cast the correct color he could collect a reward from a ballot peddler who had been watching him deposit his ballot in the ballot box from the required distance of 100 feet away. Corruption was rampant.
By late 1891, counties all over Oregon were preparing for the new way to vote. In Southern Oregon, Jackson County commissioners ordered voting booths to be constructed for all twenty-one polling places in the county and authorized the sheriff to deliver them before the election of 1892. That system lasted more than 100 years.
Today, Oregonians vote by mail!
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Alice Mullaly, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Jackson County Commissioners Journal, Wednesday, December 9, 1891 and February 3, 1892, Jackson County Clerk's Office, Medford, OR; 1885 Election Laws of the State of Oregon, Salem, 1886, p. 75, SOHS; "Brief History of the Adoption of the Australian Ballot in the United States", Supreme Court Case 99-929, July 23, 2000, pp. 5-6, http://conlaw.usatoday.findlaw.com