Voting: Is Your Ballot Really Secret?

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REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

An investigation by the Associated Press found that if you live in New Mexico and a few other states, your election data could be compromised.

Ballot secrecy is a central principle of American democracy, and yet, according to the report, gerrymandering and political campaigning have compromised this for hundreds of voters.

In smaller precincts with single-voter turnout, it’s possible to identify who voted for whom by cross-checking ballots with public records. If you were the only person who voted in your precinct during a smaller election, it would be possible to determine how the precinct – meaning, you – voted, therefore violating your voting privacy.  The state also divides voting results in precincts by types of ballots, so privacy might be threatened if you were the only person to vote absentee in your precinct, as well. In New Mexico, there were at least 370 single-vote precincts during the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries in 2008.

Why the breach? Politicians have demanded detailed voting information for campaigns and redistricting purposes. Though this is certainly a controversy, it is statistically rare, because few states break down voting by type of ballot cast. Plus, some states attempt to keep voting secure by merging the voting results from small precincts. This way, states can keep your vote your own business.