The secret ballot should be sacred – at the polling place and the workplace

The SE Texas Record Feb. 26, 2013, 10:05am

Imagine going to the polls on election day and being told that you could no longer cast a secret ballot as you always had in the past. Instead you would have to reveal your choices for mayor, state and federal legislators, governor, president or other ballot issues to election officials and other voters. 

You would protest, because you know that the secret ballot is what protects you and your fellow citizens from the intimidation and coercion of vested interests. Supporters of this or that position and one candidate or another can pester you all they want before you enter the polling place, but, once you’re in there, you’re free to vote however you please and in secret, secure in the knowledge that there will be no adverse repercussions.

You consider the secret ballot sacred at your polling place, you may even take it for granted, but for many American workers participating in union elections, even here in Texas, there’s no such thing as a secret ballot.

Because the Texas Labor Code does not guarantee workers the right to secret ballots in union elections, many workers are compelled to cast their votes using non-confidential forms or cards. You can imagine what sort of pressures they’re subjected to and how their “decisions” may be influenced less by their consciences than by careful consideration of  possible consequences.

This outrageous violation of worker rights may be corrected soon, thanks to legislation introduced last week by state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the measure “seeks to strengthen our state’s right-to-work protections by ensuring that workers are guaranteed a secret ballot in union elections.” He argued that the new law could “help ensure that the state of Texas continues to be a national leader in job creation and economic prosperity.”

More important, it’s the right thing to do.

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