Continental Europe

The ballot is largely employed in European countries. In France, where from 1840 to 1845 the ballot, or scrutin, had been used for deliberative voting in the chamber of deputies, its use in elections to the Corps Législatif was carefully regulated at the beginning of the Second Empire by the Organic Decree of the 2nd of February 1852. Under this law the voting was superintended by a bureau consisting of the deputy returning-officer (called president of the section), four unpaid assessors selected from the constituency and a secretary. Each voter presents a polling-card, with his designation, date of birth and signature (to secure identity), which he had previously got at the Mairie. This the president mutilates, and the vote is then recorded by a "bulletin," which is not official, but is generally printed with a candidate's name, and given to the voter by an agent outside, the only conditions being that the bulletin shall be "sur papier blanc, sans signes extérieurs, et préparé en dehors de l'assemblée." The total number of votes given (there being only one member in each electoral district) is checked by reference to "la feuille d'appel et inscription des votants," the law still supposing that each voter is publicly called on to vote.

If the voter, when challenged, cannot sign his polling-card, he may call a witness to sign for him. The following classes of bulletins are rejected: - "illisibles, blancs, ne contenant pas une désignation suffisante; sur lesquels les votants se sont fait connaître; contenant le nom d'une personne n'ayant pas prêté le serment prescrit" (i.e. of a person not nominated). Only the votes pronounced bad by the bureau in presence of representative scrutineers are preserved, in case these should be called for during the "Session pour vérification des Pouvoirs." Practically the French ballot did not afford secrecy, for you might observe what bulletin the voter took from the agent, and follow him up the queue into the polling-place; but the determined voter might conceal his vote even from the undue influence of government by scratching out the printed matter and writing his vote. This was always a good vote and scrutiny of good votes was impossible. The ballot is still used in the elections to the National Assembly, but in the Assembly itself only in special cases, as e.g. in the election of a "rapporteur." Under the law of 10th August 1871 the conseils généraux (departmental councils) are elected by ballot.

In Piedmont the ballot formed part of the free constitutional government introduced by Charles Albert in March 1848; it was extended to Italy in 1861. Voting for the Italian chamber of deputies takes place under the law of 20th November 1859, and in public halls (not booths), to which admission is gained by showing a certificate of inscription, issued by the mayor to each qualified voter. A stamped blue official paper, with a memorandum of the law printed on the back (bolletino spiegato), is then issued to the elector; on this he writes the name of a candidate (there being equal electoral colleges) or, in certain exceptional cases, gets a confidential friend to do so, and hands the paper folded-up to the president of the bureau, who puts it in the box (urna), and who afterwards presides at the public "squittinio dei suffragi." Greece is the only European country in which the ball-ballot is used. The voting takes place in the churches, each candidate has a box on which his name is inscribed, one half (white) being also marked "yes," the other half (black) "no." The voter, his citizenship or right to vote in the eparchy being verified, receives one ball or leaden bullet for each candidate from a wooden bowl, which a clerk carries from box to box.

The voter stretches his arm down a funnel, and drops the ball into the "yes" or "no" division. The vote is secret, but there is apparently no check on "yes" votes being given for all the candidates, and the ball or bullet is imitable.

The earlier history of the ballot in Hungary is remarkable. Before 1848 secret voting was unknown there. The electoral law of that year left the regulation of parliamentary elections to the county and town councils, very few of which adopted the ballot. The mode of voting was perhaps the most primitive on record. Each candidate had a large box with his name superscribed and painted in a distinguishing colour. On entering the room alone the voter received a rod from 4 to 6 feet in length (to prevent concealment of non-official rods on the voter's person), which he placed in the box through a slit in the lid. By the electoral law of 1874 the ballot in parliamentary elections in Hungary was abolished, but was made obligatory in the elections of town and county councils, the voting being for several persons at once.

In Prussia, Stein, by his Städteordnung, or municipal corporation act of 1808, introduced the ballot in the election of the municipal assembly (Stadtverordnetenversammlung). Under the German constitution of 1867, and the new constitution of the 1st of January 1871, the elections of the Reichstag were to be conducted by universal suffrage under the ballot in conformity with the electoral law of the 31st of May 1869.