Tomorrow is an important day for Americans to vote. That right, as we know it today, is a rather recent addition in history. The History of Voting on the web site ActiVote helps us appreciate the value of voting, and how far we’ve come as a society.
We tend to think that voting is a stable process, but as you can see from the history, and the future projections for changes to voting, it is an ever developing mechanism for democracy.
The frustration many of us have with the political process is negative campaigning. But at least that is not as bad as the negative voting, that was part of the early Greek system of democracy:
Ancient Greece had one of the earliest forms of democracy, since at least 508 BC. Each year, the Greeks had a negative election — voters were asked to cast a vote for the politician they most wanted to exile for ten years. Votes were written on broken pots, ostraka in Greek, and from this name comes our present word to ostracize.
If any politician received more than 6,000 votes then the one with the largest number was exiled. If no politician received 6,000 votes then all remained. If there was a fairly even spread of votes, nobody would get over 6,000 and no one would get exiled — hence only very unpopular politicians were ostracized and exiled. Voting rights in ancient Greece were only for male landowners, so the number of voters was small.