1540s, "small ball used in voting," also "secret vote taken by ballots," from Italian pallotte, diminutive of palla "ball," for small balls used as counters in secret voting, from a Germanic source (from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell"). The earliest references are to Venice. By 1776 the sense of the word had been extended to tickets or sheets of paper used in secret voting. Ballot box attested from 1670s; metonymically from 1834 as "system or practice of voting by ballot."
1550s, "give a vote to;" 1560s, "enact or establish by vote;" see vote (n.). Earlier it meant "to vow" to do something (mid-15c.). Related: Voted; voting.
"exile by ostracism, banish by popular vote," also in a figurative sense, "to exclude from society or favor," 1640s, from Latinized form of Greek ostrakizein "to banish," literally "to banish by voting with potshards" (see ostracism). Related: Ostracization; ostracized; ostracizing.
1765, "authenticated official report concerning some event, issued for the information of the public," from French bulletin (16c.), modeled on Italian bulletino, diminutive of bulletta "document, voting slip," itself a diminutive of Latin bulla "round object" (see bull (n.2)) with equivalent of Old French -elet (see -let). For use of balls in voting, see ballot (n.).
The word was used earlier in English in the Italian form (mid-17c.). It was popularized by the use of bulletin in the Napoleonic Wars as the name for dispatches sent from the front and meant for the home public (which led to the proverbial expression as false as a bulletin). The broadcast news sense of "any brief, notice or public announcement of news" is from 1925. Bulletin board "public board on which news and notices are posted" is from 1831; computer sense is from 1979.
late 14c., "intercessory prayers or pleas on behalf of another," from Old French sofrage "plea, intercession" (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin suffragium, from Latin suffragium "support, ballot, vote; right of voting; a voting tablet," from suffragari "lend support, vote for someone," conjectured to be a compound of sub "under" (see sub-) + fragor "crash, din, shouts (as of approval)," related to frangere "to break" (from PIE root *bhreg- "to break"). On another theory (Watkins, etc.) the second element is frangere itself and the notion is "use a broken piece of tile as a ballot" (compare ostracism).
The meaning "a vote for or against anything" is from 1530s. The meaning "political right to vote" in English is first found in the U.S. Constitution, 1787.