Washington Law Review


Eric Van Hagen


Secrecy in voting ensures that elections represent the true will of the people by permitting a voter to freely express his or her convictions without fear of even the most subtle form of influence, ridicule, intimidation, corruption, or coercion. Article VI, section 6 of the Washington State Constitution protects this secrecy by requiring the legislature to provide every voter with a method of voting that will secure absolute secrecy in preparing and casting his or her ballot. To that end, Washington election law requires that new technology be implemented by January 1, 2006 to provide visually impaired voters with a secret vote to the extent feasible. However, no similar provision exists for manually impaired voters. Manually impaired voters include a wide range of individuals who lack the manual dexterity to complete a paper ballot, such as amputees and individuals with cerebral palsy. Manually impaired voters must waive their constitutional right to vote in secret and instead must disclose their selections to a third party, usually in an open polling place where not only the person assisting the voter hears the selection, but so does everyone in the vicinity. Voting technology now exists and is approved for use in Washington that allows manually impaired voters to vote in secret. This Comment argues that in light of the plain language of the constitution, the framers' intent in requiring absolute secrecy, and persuasive precedent from other jurisdictions, the Washington State Constitution requires that the legislature provide for secrecy in voting to the extent feasible. By failing to provide a secret vote for manually impaired voters to the extent feasible, the Washington legislature has not complied with the requirements of article VI, section 6.

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