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Imagine a world without secret voting

October 31, 2014

Imagine you live in a world where all your votes are public knowledge – no voter privacy, no voting booths, and no mail-in ballots. What if you could be approached in public and asked to cast your vote on the spot?

As an illustration, imagine visiting a hospital to check on a friend. Outside, you see two large groups protesting – pro life and pro choice. With no other way in, you put your head down, and walk discretely toward the main entrance.

You let out a sigh as two shoes start moving your way. A booming voice rings out, “Do you know how you’re going to vote on ballot initiative 99?” You look up and see an intense face, a pin advocating the position you disagree with, and reinforcements closing in: “This initiative will have huge impacts on abortion rights, you know.”

You shift uncomfortably but try to stand up straight and respond. “Yes, I do know how I will vote.” Another volunteer hands you a card. “No time like the present. Go ahead, vote right now. We’ll watch.” Your gulp is audible.

Clearly this is uncomfortable and not what many of us would want – the potential for intimidation is obvious. But if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under President Obama gets its way, this is exactly what the workplace could look like for millions of workers.

Last year, Arizonans overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that told workers “if your company is deciding whether or not to unionize, you have a constitutional right to cast your vote in secret.” But now, the NLRB is trying to strike down the amendment through a federal lawsuit. If they succeed, a union sympathizer would be permitted to accost a fellow employee and watch as the employee votes on whether or not to unionize.

But the Goldwater Institute is fighting back, defending the amendment in court. We’re hopeful that this effort to protect workers’ right to a secret ballot – already duplicated in five states, with more to follow this year – will prevail.

Taylor Earl is an attorney for the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Learn More:

Goldwater Institute: National Labor Relations Board v. State of Arizona (Save Our Secret Ballot case)

Goldwater Institute: Defending the right to a secret ballot and Arizona’s constitution

Huffington Post: Obama’s War on the Secret Ballot (co-authored by the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick)



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