A ballot is a device used to cast votes in an election, and may be a
piece of paper or a small ball used in secret voting. It was
originally a small ball (see blackballing) used to record decisions
made by voters.
Each voter uses one ballot, and ballots are not shared. In the
simplest elections, a ballot may be a simple scrap of paper on which
each voter writes in the name of a candidate, but governmental
elections use preprinted ballots to protect the secrecy of the votes.
The voter casts their ballot in a box at a polling station.
In British English, this is usually called a "ballot paper". The
word ballot is used for an election process within an organisation
(such as a trade union "holding a ballot" of its members).
3 Types of voting systems
6 Further reading
7 See also
9 External links
The word ballot comes from Italian ballotta, meaning a “small ball
used in voting” or a “secret vote taken by ballots” in Venice,
Ancient Greek ostraca, 5th century BC,
Ancient Agora Museum
Ancient Agora Museum in Athens,
housed in the Stoa of Attalus.
Ancient Greek bronze secret ballots used to cast a juror's vote on a
case, 3rd century BC,
Ancient Agora Museum
Ancient Agora Museum in Athens, housed in the
Stoa of Attalus
In ancient Greece, citizens used pieces of broken pottery to scratch
in the name of the candidate in the procedures of ostracism.
The first use of paper ballots to conduct an election appears to have
been in Rome in 139 BC, following the introduction of the lex Gabinia
In Ancient India, around 920 AD, in Tamil Nadu, Palm leaves were used
for village assembly elections. The palm leaves with candidate names,
will be put inside a mud pot, for counting. This was called Kudavolai
The first use of paper ballots in America was in 1629 within the
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony to select a pastor for the Salem Church.
Paper ballots were pieces of paper marked and supplied by voters.
Types of voting systems
Depending on the type of voting system used in the election, different
ballots may be used. Ranked ballots allow voters to rank candidates in
order of preference, while ballots for first-past-the-post systems
only allow voters to select one candidate for each position. In
party-list systems, lists may be open or closed.
Ballots may be tickets rather than forms, as in Israel.
Perspective view of the infamous 2000 Palm Beach County, Florida
Top view of the same 2000 Florida "butterfly ballot".
Ballot design can aid or inhibit clarity in an election. Poor designs
lead to confusion and potentially chaos if large numbers of voters
spoil or mismark a ballot. The butterfly ballot used in the Palm Beach
U.S. presidential election, 2000
U.S. presidential election, 2000 (a ballot paper that
has names down both sides, with a single column of punch holes in the
center, which has been likened to a maze) led to widespread
allegations of mismarked ballots.
Russian ballot to the 2011 State Duma elections with list of political
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Vote counting system
In a jurisdiction using a paper system, voters choose by marking a
ballot or, as in the case of
Israel and France, picking one pre-marked
ballot from among many. In most jurisdictions the ballots are
pre-printed with names of candidates and the text of the referendums.
The Philippines (until 2007) and
Japan are an exception. There, voters
must write the names of their candidates on the ballot. Election
officials manually count the ballots after the polls close and may be
recounted in the event of a dispute.
In a jurisdiction using an optical scan voting system, voters choose
by filling an oval or by completing an arrow on the printed ballot
next to their chosen candidate or referendum position. Voters with
disabilities may be provided with electronic ballot marking devices.
Optical scan technology has also been used by many standardized tests.
Tabulating machines count the ballots either after the polls close or
as the voters feed the ballots into the machine, in which case the
results are not known until after the polls close. Officials often
will manually count any ballots that cannot be read or with a write-in
candidate and may recount the ballots in the event of a dispute.
In a jurisdiction using a punched card system, voters choose by
removing or "punching out" a perforated chad from the ballot next each
choice, sometimes with tools as simple as a pin, but usually with a
ballot marking device such as the Votomatic. The ballot may be
pre-printed with candidates and referendums, or may be a generic
ballot placed under a printed list of candidates and referendums.
Tabulating machines count ballots after the polls close. Officials may
manually count the ballots in the event of a dispute. Punched card
voting systems are being replaced by other voting systems because of a
high rate of inaccuracy related to the incomplete removal of the
perforated chad and the inaccessibility to voters with disabilities.
In a jurisdiction using a mechanical voting system, often called a
"voting machine", voters choose by pulling a lever next to their
choice. There is a printed list of candidates, parties and referendums
next to the levers indicating which lever is assigned to which choice.
When the voter pulls a lever, it turns a connected gear in the
machine, which turns a counter wheel. Each counter wheel shows a
number, which is the number of votes cast using that lever. After the
polls close, election officials check the wheels' positions and record
the totals. No physical ballot is used in this system, except when the
voter chooses to write-in a candidate. Other systems are replacing
mechanical voting systems because they are inaccessible to disabled
voters, do not have a physical ballot and are getting old.
In a jurisdiction using an electronic direct record voting system
(DRE), voters choose by pushing a button next to a printed list of
candidates and referendums, or by touching the candidate or
referendums box on a touchscreen interface. As the voter makes a
selection, the DRE creates an electronic ballot stored by in the
memory components of the system. After the polls close, the system
counts the votes and reports the totals to the election officials.
Many DREs include a communication device to transmit vote totals to a
central tabulator. The touchscreen systems remind people of an
automated teller machine (ATM) and often are described as such.
Bonser is a method allowing the voter more than two choices for a
proposition. Choices of red, yellow and green can indicate
disapproval, requirement for more clarity and approval, for
Smith, Sydney (1839). Ballot. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and
List of democracy and elections-related topics
Vote counting systems
^ "Ballot". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
^ "Ballot". Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved
^ "Ballot". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
^ "Panchayat Raj, Policy notes 2011-2012" (PDF). Rural development
& panchayat raj department, TN Government, India. Retrieved 3
^ "Heritage in a park". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 2 April 2010.
^ "Handbook on Kongu archaeological treasures". The Hindu. Coimbatore,
India. 27 June 2005.
^ Jones, Douglas W.. A Brief Illustrated History of Voting. University
of Iowa Department of Computer Science.
^ Associated Press (2003-07-14). "State:
Ballot display revives chads,
chaos of bungled election". Saint Petersburg Times Online Tampa Bay.
^ "Statement of Commissioner Victoria Wilson".
in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election, www.usccr.gov.
Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved
^ Dershowitz, 'Supreme Injustice: how the High Court hijacked Election
2000', p. 22-28. ISBN 9780195148275
^ Bonser Method. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
Look up ballot in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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"Ballot". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
Part of the politics and election series
Single-winner voting system
Positional voting system
Single transferable vote
Highest averages method
Largest remainder method
Alternative vote Plus
Single non-transferable vote
Proportional approval voting
Sequential proportional approval voting
Satisfaction approval voting
Table of voting systems by country
Voting system criteria
Condorcet loser criterion
Independence of clones
Independence of irrelevant alternatives
Independence of Smith-dominated alternatives
Majority loser criterion
Mutual majority criterion
Voting system quotas