Although the memory of hanging chads still clouds the electoral mood, American elections have come a long way. Before the adoption of the secret ballot in the late 19th century, voting was anything but a private matter, and often involved trickery, extortion, and large quantities of alcohol. And for decades after that, the right to vote continued to be limited to a minority of the American citizenry.
In this excerpt from the fascinating public radio show, BackStory With the American History Guys, the hosts review how elections were handled as the country was formed. Their guest, Mark Summers, Professor of History at the University of Kentucky, discusses how voter fraud has always been a major problem and how race has always been an issues in elections. What did the Founders think democracy entailed, and how have we tweaked their system since then?
Ed Ayers is President of the University of Richmond. Previously, he served as Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia.
Brian Balogh is Mayo Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the University of Virginia and Co-Chair of the Governing America in a Global Era Program at UVA’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
Peter Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
This free podcast is from our '08 Conversations series.