Key role of
liquorice town in 
democracy

Coun Denise Jeffery pictured with the first secret ballot box at Pontefract Museum.''Picture: Simon Hulme
Coun Denise Jeffery pictured with the first secret ballot box at Pontefract Museum.''Picture: Simon Hulme
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it MAY just be a simple wooden box – but it changed the history of democracy in Britain forever.

The town of Pontefract in West Yorkshire is usually best know for liquorice, but it was centre stage in August 1872 when the first secret ballot was used to elect a Member of Parliament.

Before the Ballot Act of 1972, those who were eligible to vote had to declare their choice in public, a system that was open to bribery and intimidation.

Britain’s first secret ballot box, marked with wax seals made from a liquorice stamp from a local Pontefract Cake factory, is usually housed in the town’s museum, but later this month will be exhibited in Parliament’s Festival of Freedoms, a year-long celebration of democracy marking 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta.

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box said: “It is important that we celebrate these key milestones in the history of British politics and that we can showcase nationally the significant contribution that our district has made. Pontefract’s first secret ballot changed the way we vote and it is key to the British democracy we have today.”

Museum curators will speak at Pontefract Library on September 18. Tickets are required.

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