The process of voting was simple. An informed open-air meeting (the contio) was held, at which the presiding magistrate explained the measures that were to come before the Assembly (the comitia curiata) and invited officials and prominent citizens to discuss them. This was the only opportunity for debate. Then the meeting reconvened as the Assembly. The presiding officer stated the question and the voters separated into thirty-five groups by districts . . . A majority determined the vote of the district, which was at once reported to the magistrate in charge. The votes of the eighteen or more districts carried of defeated a bill.
Unlike Athenian Greece, Rome had no understanding of or at the very least did not prefer direct democracy. Instead the majority of the tribe held the vote, and in turn the majority of tribes held the decision of the day. Only Roman citizen with ius suffragiorum could join in the count, and a citizen had to be in Rome on the day of the vote to take part. With no no absentee ballots or early voting options, this posed some difficulty to the good agrarian Roman who was more concerned with crops or military service to bother with making the long and arduous trip up to Rome. In time this disparagement would not lend itself to an optimally healthy state politic.
This post is a part of the Cicero series, reading This Was Cicero, by H.J. Haskell.