A ballot is a devise through which candidates and voters takes part in the formation of a government and in making of an ordinance. An election ballot gives the voters an opportunity to express their choice of candidates[i].
The form and content of ballots used in state elections are regulated and controlled by constitutional provisions[ii]. In the absence of such provisions, it is the state legislature that regulates and controls the ballot[iii]. An election is said to be free and equal only if the ballot is fair and free of confusions. A ballot must allow the voter to choose between the lawful candidates for public office. A ballot must offer to each voter a reasonable opportunity to express his/her choice[iv].
Any question as to the validity of a ballot must be given a liberal interpretation. In the case of fraud from voters, the statute must be interpreted strictly.
Funds are allotted for states under the federal statute to replace lever voting systems with any other voting system that does not use punch cards.
The basic requirement of a ballot is that one ballot must not be different from another. Thus all the ballot papers must be similar. The ballot paper should not contain any device, endorsement, symbol, or other mark that would distinguish one ballot from another. If there is any mark or erasures on the ballot then such ballot is spoiled and it must be rejected[v]. To ensure secrecy in voting, statutes stipulates that a ballot paper must be designed in a way so that it can be folded. The use of ballots that cannot be folded violates the constitutional and statutory right to a secret ballot[vi].
A candidate has got a right to have his/her name printed in the official ballot. The name that is published in the ballot must be the one that s/he uses in private and official business transactions. The candidate must take part in an election in good faith and honesty to bring his/her name in the ballot. In some jurisdictions, the names of candidates in the ballot are rotated[vii]. While in some other jurisdictions, a candidate’s name position in the ballot is determined by lottery.
The number in the ballot paper corresponds to the number in the stub book from which the ballots are removed. The ballot paper is removed from the stub book by an election officer just before the ballot is deposited in the ballot box. Ballot papers that are not numbered will not be counted in the election. In some jurisdictions they will be counted if it is proven that there no fraud occured.
[i] Rosen v. Brown, 970 F.2d 169 (6th Cir. Ohio 1992).
[ii] State ex rel. Barber v. Circuit Court for Marathon County, 178 Wis. 468 (Wis. 1922).
[iii] State ex rel. Hubbard v. Lindsay, 52 Wn.2d 397 (Wash. 1958).
[iv] Toigo v. Columbia County Board of Elections, 51 Misc. 2d 754 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1966).
[v] State ex rel. Bender v. Delery, 3 So. 2d 204 (La.App., Orleans 1941).
[vi] Lemaire v. Walsh, 27 Nev. 258 (Nev. 1903).
[vii] People ex rel. Nichols v. Board of Canvassers, 129 N.Y. 395 (N.Y. 1891).