US voting has always been flawed. Initially, voting was done by a show of hands. You had to turn up at a certain time to vote. Except for the inconvenience, that worked OK. Then they introduced the paper ballot. You had to supply the paper, write the name of your candidate on it, make it past the crowds, often hostile (unless you are voting for their candidate), and hand your ballot in through a window to the election official. You also had to be able to spell your candidateâ€™s name correctly or your vote was null.
Then parties began to print the ballots. Theyâ€™d give you a ballot (and a buck), but you still had to make it through the intimidating crowds who were often fighting amongst themselves. Woe to you if, on your way there with your ballot in hand, you meet the thugs of the party you are voting against. Sometimes people were shot. In the middle years of the 19th century, 89 people were killed, not counting those who died later.
What changed this situation was imported from Australia, of all places, and that was two-fold: the government supplied the ballots and voting was secret (Victoriaâ€™s Electoral Act of 1856). It was adopted in Britain, long before the US, where its merits were debated for a couple of decades. Even then, there were shenanigans. One state printed its ballots in gothic letters, so the poor and the blacks could not read them. Others required you to pass a literacy test. The Southern Democrats, who were a racist bunch in those days, particularly welcomed the â€œAustralian ballotâ€. Quite apart from the literacy hurdle, a voter had to come into City Hall to vote, and this act itself was very intimidating to blacks.