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The Ballot Box

Two of the greatest bedrocks of the Fraternity are the secrecy of the ballot and that the ballot to be unanimous to elect. However, both the secrecy and the unanimity may, occasionally, be a hardship on a petitioner apparently worthy of being taken by the hand as a brother; but no institution is perfect, and no one always acts according to the best that is in him. The occasional failure of the system to work complete justice may be laid to the individuals using it and not to the Fraternity.

It is by reason of this indifference that I want to communicate with you! The last balloting came out to be unfavorable to two candidates. I would like to shed light before you as you were about to cast your ballot on the fate of a candidate or candidates who desires to be conferred the Degrees of Masonry or apply for affiliation in your Lodge. My dear Brethren, vote wisely that you may have to be strict but not unreasonable; personal feelings should not pave the way for a candidate’s disqualification and that the yardstick should always be the Fraternity and not on you, knowing that only worthy men can be accepted to our fold.

The CMC declares and holds that our privilege in casting out ballot is an immense power entrusted to each and every Master Mason. Hence, we are reminded that we should be extremely careful in depositing our ballot. But, with due respect to our brethren, how do we really cast our ballot? Do we look upon the candidate who was properly investigated? Or do we look upon the proposers, who are our brother’s known to us? Or do we look at the leadership of this lodge?

Upon the receipt of the applicants petition the Wor. Master keeps on reminding you that if you have some objection you need to approach him. Time and time again you were reminded that if there is such an objection, it should be informed in advance prior to his balloting either orally or in writing, to the Master. You have until the following stated meeting for those anyone who think the candidate is unfit for the lodge, or who have personal objections to entering into the sacred relation of brotherhood with him, may have the opportunity to say "No." Such objections must not be made via the ballot box.

We know that the candidate was properly investigated by a team carefully chosen by the Master, composed of our brethren believed to be with impeccable integrity. We know that a thorough investigation was conducted, and he was initially found to be worthy and well qualified, thereby concluding that he is a good man. We know that a favorable report was submitted to the Master. Based on the report of the investigating team, we confidently assume that it would be fair in the south, clear in the west and bright in the east.

Nonetheless, we are still mandated to conduct balloting. Why? Why do we need to cast our ballot when the candidate was already investigated, found to be worthy and well qualified, and a good man? What is the sense of balloting when there is already a favorable report made by the investigating team?

In reality, most of the time when we cast our ballot, we consider the proposers themselves and not the candidate. We look up to the proposers’ attitude, conduct or performance in the lodge and not that of the candidate. We even consider the level of our tie with the proposers; how close are we to them as compared to the rest of the brethren. Or even the fact that the proposers had done something favorable to us in the past. And though sometimes we have reservations with the candidate, we just set them aside and then proceed to cast white.

But, have we ever thought - why is there a black cube? And why, sometimes, a black cube is cast?

On the other hand, what happens when it is cloudy in the south, dark in the west and black in the east? It is the duty of a Mason “to give every petitioner the benefit of a fair and intelligent use of the ballot. The upright man and Mason, true to the tradition of the Craft, would never allow personal spite or prejudice to influence his decision or his action.” The power thus put in the hands of the individual Master Mason is very great. No officer, not even the Grand Master, may inquire how we vote, or why we voted as we did. No Grand Master has the power to set aside the black cube that may have been cast.

If in the ballot box is a black cube, the applicant is rejected.

This rejection of an application does more than merely preventing the applicant from being given the degrees. It creates over the petitioner a lodge jurisdiction. He may not apply to another lodge for the degrees refused him by this one. He may not again apply even to the lodge that rejected him until after a statutory period of twelve months, unless waived through a dispensation process in accordance with our CMC. When his application is again received and brought up for ballot, the fact that he previously applied and was rejected is stated to the lodge.

In other words, the casting of a black cube not only rejects for the degrees, but also puts a certain disability upon the applicant, which he is powerless to remove.

The brother who casts a ballot, then, wields a tremendous power upon an applicant. Like most powers, it can be used well or ill. It may work harm, or good, not only upon him upon whom it is used, but also to him who uses it. Unlike many great powers put into the hands of men, however, this one is not subject to review or control by anyone else. No king, prince, potentate; no law, custom or regulation; no Masonic brother or officer, not the Grand Lodge's Inspector, not even the Grand Master himself, can interfere with the individual's use of his power. We are rejecting not only the petitioner but five or seven more of our trusted brothers who are dear to us (3 investigators, 2 recommenders and 2 more references if they are a member of this lodge).

No one knows who casts the black cube. No one knows why one is cast. It is an act of cowardice. The individual brother and his God alone know. The very absence of any responsibility to man or authority is one of the reasons why the power should be used with intelligence, and only when, after solemn self-inquiry, the reason behind its use is found to be Masonic.

Thus, if we have a personal spite against the petitioner, or even against the proposers, we should never use the ballot as a weapon to reject such a good man. We should always remember that the “ballot is an inviolable secret; that the ballot box is never the proper place to exhibit petty spite toward an individual; and that the balloting ceremony is equivalent to a sacred promise to cast the ballot in accordance with one’s moral obligation and conscience.”

If this practice of continuously rejecting candidates in the Lodge, it will harm and put the lodge in a terrible position. The charter of the Lodge will be at stake, it is a sign of disharmony and it is not far from a revocation or suspension of a Lodge charter. Persons who have, or who might even consider, casting a black cube "for prejudicial personal reasons" maybe "didn't understand", or may "have forgotten" the Masonic obligations they have taken, as well as the lectures they received as they progressed through the degrees of Masonry.

Such use of the black cube is, definitely, utterly un-masonic. It is a misuse of a great power. Turning the Masonic black cube into a secret dagger for personal revenge is indefensible.

We are all familiar with the phrase "harmony being the strength and support of all societies, especially of ours." Harmony is one of the foundations of Freemasonry. Simply put, it is the oneness of mind, effort, ideas and ideals. Anything that interferes with harmony hurts our Institution. It is essential for lodges to have a harmonious membership.

So vote wisely my brothers not to use the ballot as an instrument of vengeance but as a tool for wise judgment; that the ballot is sacred and should not be taken lightly, knowing that before being conferred the degrees of masonry it was the ballot that sealed your fate and that no man has a right to become a freemason for it is a privilege controlled at the ballot box.

Remember the Level, one of our working tools which constantly reminds us that we should treat every individual as our brother regardless of race or creed and that the Level, is not limited only to our brother Masons, but for all we care to know is that the candidate is a human being; “that is enough for us; he can be any worse! That one day the candidate might become Worshipful Master of this lodge or may wear the Purple of our Fraternity and rule the Grand Jurisdiction once he is voted favorably.

The Trowel, principal tool of a Master Mason to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection. That the individual Mason is a Builder on the Temple of Human Brotherhood; he is both the trowel and the cement which combine the units of society into a cohesive whole. The brotherly love he extends to others is the trowel; the appreciation and affection he arouses are the cement which helps to bind men closer to each other. But how many of us consciously use the trowel of brotherly love to spread the cement of appreciation and understanding?

We boast of walking upright in rectitude as by the Plumb, yet in everyday life we often see ourselves very much bent, far from the upright, a disgrace to morality and decency and to Masonry.

We proudly wear the Masonic ring and display Masonic emblems for the world to see but what value does it give us if we do not even know its meaning. We tell our neighbors and friends that we are a member of this Honorable Fraternal Order but what benefit will it give to Masonry if we cannot even defend it against insidious attacks. We might have traveled long and wide and mingled with prominent Masons but what good does it give to Masonry if our motive is only to establish connections for the promotion of our selfish interest.

Yes, we are Masons, and for what? We do not know. For honestly, we seldom attend lodge meetings, the least that we wanted to do for after-all we have perfect excuses not to and that we have done nothing to improve ourselves according to our Ancient Landmarks. All our inconsistencies, our weaknesses, our hypocrisy, these are strains to the honor and prestige of Masonry. No wonder then that because of our actions Masonry has legions of enemies who take advantage of our own faults and weaknesses which could have been avoided if only we were sincere to our Obligations as a Mason.

And so, brethren, remember: The ballot is held most sacred next to the Holy Bible. In exercising this privilege, we must do it with extreme caution but with fairness. Never allow personal spite upon the applicant or the proposers or anyone to influence your decision. Determine if the applicant will strengthen the Fraternity more than weaken it. The one to be elected or rejected is the applicant and not the proposers. Be objective. For all we know, the applicant maybe a diamond in the rough. After all, Freemasonry’s main function is to make good men better.

Certainly, my brethren, in times like these, when good, honest and sincere men are rare specimens, as Masons worth our salt, I need you to join me to travel by the Plumb, act upon the Square and meet our fellowmen on the Level. In so doing we shall have lived a real Masonic life, ever bearing the blessed fruits of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

I hope that you are now ready to cast your vote. For I know that kindness and brotherly affection distinguish our conduct as Men and as Masons!

te wisely!

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