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A ballot is a means of voting for candidates for elected office. The choice may be indicated on or by the ballot forms themselves, printed tickets, mechanical or electronic devices, or by the receptacles into which the ballots are placed. Separate ballots are frequently distributed for referendums and constitutional propositions.
Mechanical, computerized, electronic, or optically scannable means of voting are now used to record about 90% of all votes in the United States. The institution of official ballots and the use of voting machines have brought more integrity to the voting system and minimized the threat of corruption in the voting process. Since the 1990 presidential election, there has been an increased interest in computerized ballots to help ensure accuracy in voting.
The following is an example of a state statute governing ballots:
"The name of each elector whose ballot has been received must immediately be taken down by each clerk on separate lists, which shall be known as the poll list, and the number or the order in which each elector votes must at the same time be entered by each clerk against his name, the first elector voting being number one, the second number two and so on to the last elector voting, and one of the inspectors shall correctly number each ballot with the number to correspond with the number opposite the elector's name on the poll list."
A secret ballot involves a situation in which people cast votes anonymously in order to determine the outcome of an election or some other decision. Elections in the United States are now almost always held by secret ballot.