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At one time, voting was not private. Before the Civil War, U.S. citizens often said their votes out loud or voted by raising their hands. After the Civil War, printed ballots became common. However, since these were distributed by individual candidates or parties and were often different colors or shapes, it was usually possible to tell whom someone was voting for.
Can you imagine voting and having everyone around you know who you voted for? The pressure from your friends and family and neighbors would have been crazy!
It was not until the 1890's that voting became truly secret. The names of all qualifying candidates were printed on a single ballot by the government. These could only be distributed at polling places, where voting was done in private booths. The use of voting machines has further ensured the secrecy of the vote