First British Secret Ballot Election
The march towards democracy in this country, still uncompleted, has many milestones: the Great Reform Act of 1832 and votes for women among them; one of the most significant was the use of the secret ballot, long resisted by reactionary voices as it would reduce the power of the great landlords and factory owners.
Until the Pontefract by-election of August 1872 the method of voting had been for men (and it was limited then to men of course) to show their preference in a show of hands. Landlords and mill owners could pressure their tenants and workers to vote as the wealthy chose. Gladstone changed this with The Ballot Act of 1872, the radical new system of, in secret, putting an X against your selection on the ballot paper first being used in the Pontefract contest.
Wax seals on the ballot box guarded against tampering, and as it was Pontefract those seals were made with a stamp from a local liquorice factory, its normal use being on Pontefract cakes . To misquote Gil Scott-Heron the revolution will be gourmandised. Sadly of course whom we are presented with to vote for is controlled still by inter-connected elites, but at least we can choose the least-worst in secret.
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