In elections prior to 1874, voters had to enter a polling station and publicly called out their choice of candidate, a polling method open to blackmail and intimidation. In addition, with the exception of Nova Scotia and PEI, elections were held on different dates in different ridings and the same election could be dragged out over weeks or even months.
On May 26, 1874, the Dominion Elections Act brought in by the Liberal Government under Alexander Mackenzie was given Royal Assent. Among other things, this Act stipulated the use of secret ballot and the practice of holding a general election on the same day in all electoral districts.
Ironically, Alexander Mackenzie was defeated in the following election with the use of secret ballot, while Sir John A. Macdonald was elected after four years in Opposition even though he was opposed to the secret ballot.