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On January 3rd, the new 113th Congress will convene for its first day of business. The first action in the House will be electing a Speaker, the chamber’s presiding officer. The vote is conducted by a public roll-call, where each individual member goes on record with their choice. As such, it’s a system designed to reward those already entrenched in power. Conducting the election by secret ballot, however, would preserve and strengthen the democratic foundations of the “people’s House.”

The secret ballot has been a hallmark of democratic governance since its earliest days. It allows an individual to vote their conscience without fear of reprisal or retribution. It’s a sacrosanct principle in the election of officials at every level of our government. It should equally apply to the elections of those who would preside over our democratic institutions.

The Speaker exercises considerable control over the House. Apart from deciding which bills come to the floor, the Speaker can also dictate almost every other aspect of a Member’s life on the Hill. The Speaker can control specific committees on which a member serves and even the specific physical offices they are allotted.

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