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On Tuesday, Feb. 12 I intended to avail myself of my right to vote in the Presidential Primary.
Not being a registered member of any political party I was pleased to learn that any registered voter could participate. I showed up at my assigned polling place and was greeted courteously and asked for some identification. I presented my identification, which was passed along to the inspectors.
They all seemed to nod their heads in agreement that I was who I claimed to be and that I could vote. What happened next both surprised and disturbed me. I was asked, in the presence of the four or five people seated in front of me and within earshot of another five or six individuals present “which party I would be voting for.”
I was taught that in our country we use the secret ballot system. The very purpose of the secret ballot is to protect the individual’s right to cast a vote without explaining to anyone for whom, or for what reason, the vote is cast. Well, that is what I believed.
I’m a pastor. My own personal choice for who is selected to be on a particular party’s presidential ballot is of no concern to anyone other than myself. I do not discuss politics in my church nor do I try to influence people on how to vote. Maintaining political neutrality in my position is important to me.
To be asked which party I would be voting for is tantamount to being asked in a public forum who I will be voting for for president or at very least and very clearly who I would not be voting for. And last time I checked, the voting process is supposed to be by a secret vote, done in total privacy. Hence the curtains on the old mechanical lever booths and privacy shields on the modern electronic voting terminals.
Did I miss something? Am I the only outraged citizen who left without voting?
I deliberately abstained to make the point that my vote, as well as the votes of all qualified citizens should be done in absolute secrecy. There are folks who choose to register with a particular political party. And those individuals must be willing to be very public about the candidate they support. That is their free choice. But I was not offered the choice to cast a ballot without having first to declare publicly a specific party.
I have never belonged to a particular party. Whatever the office, I always vote for individuals whom I believe to be the best qualified and who will best represent me and the people that they are elected to serve.
Are these new, costly voting machines incapable of being programmed to allow a citizen to choose first a party in private and then choose a particular candidate? That, in my opinion, should have been the protocol that was used. It would respect the privacy of all voters. Must we be asked first to declare openly which party’s candidates we are voting for? Must we sacrifice our privacy and our rights for this new technology?
Father Steve McNally is pastor of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in Bedford. He is a member of the Bedford Ministerial Association and serves as a Chaplain for the Bedford Police Dept., The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and Bedford County Fire & Rescue. He was recently appointed Grand Chaplain for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.