The Catalytic Effect of Ballot Reform
The years between 1885 and 1915 saw the introduction of a number of reforms with which the introduction of the direct primary is sometimes bracketed. They include the direct election of U. S. Senators, the initiative referendum, and recall elections. However, only one of the various reforms is crucial to an understanding of how and why direct primaries were introduced, and that is the adoption of the Australian Ballot. There are two reasons why ballot reform should have been so important for the later debate about nomination reform. First, the switch from ballots administered by parties to ballots that were distributed and regulated by the states had direct consequences for the process of nominating candidates. Second, the apparent success of the Australian Ballot — as far as both party elites and antiparty reformers were concerned — helped to create expectations about political reform that would frame the context in which reform of the nominating system was discussed. However, in explaining why the direct primary was introduced, ballot reform is significant for another reason, one that forms the subject of this chapter. It demonstrates how successfully the parties were able to defend their interests in enacting reforms when their own interests could be identified clearly. As becomes evident in later chapters, in many respects it was much less obvious in the case of nomination reform where the interests of the parties lay, and that was to produce very different results in terms of future party development.
By the early 1880s the Australian Ballot, as it came to be known in the United States, had been adopted for elections not only in Australia but also in several European countries, including Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Italy. The essential elements of this system were that the ballot paper was printed by the state, and not by the candidates or parties, it was available only at the place of balloting and at the time of voting, and a ballot paper