In some locales, particularly the South, voting was still an oral and public act: men assembled before election judges, waited for their names to be called, and then announced which candidates they supported.
…As the number of office to be filled through elections grew, printed ballots gradually replaced handwritten ones, and political parties themselves began to prepare printed ballots, both to assist and monitor their voters. Abuses of the system were (sometimes) checked by the passage of laws requiring all ballots to be of uniform size and color…
That is Alexander Keyssar in The Right to Vote, a history of US elections and democracy.
For a time, roughnecks might check your pockets on the way to the ballot box, sending you back way home (perhaps with bruises) were you carrying the “wrong” ballot.
Not long ago, particularly in New York, many of the polling booths were in pubs. To vote you had to make your way through a screaming mob of drunken partisans.
I’m mortified over the Afghan election mess. It helps (a little) to remember that American democracy is no Athena, springing forth whole from the heads of immortals.
Yes, that’s my comforting news: everything will be just fine in 150 years.