Vintage Ballot Boxes

 Vintage Ballot Boxes
One of the ballot boxes in the Library’s collection was used in the garage of Leslie Goolishian’s home in Galveston. Ms. Goolishian was the Voter Service Chair for the League of Women Voters for many years.

In recognition of election month this November, Rosenberg Library will exhibit two vintage ballot boxes which were used in Galveston elections during the mid-20th century. The ballot boxes were donated by Lynn Thompson and Burke Evans.

 Vintage Ballot Boxes
Excerpt from a 1973 Galveston Daily News article listing polling places for the City general election. Precincts 5 and 20 conducted voting from residential garages that year.

The History of the Ballot Box

The earliest elections in America were conducted by a voice vote. Voters would state their candidate of choice aloud to an official at a designated polling station. This official would record and tally the votes to determine the winner. Paper ballots eventually replaced the voice vote. Voters marked a paper to indicate their chosen candidate, and the ballot was placed inside a ballot box.

During the 1960s, computer-read ballot systems were introduced. Voters punched a hole in the card or marked a ballot in pencil to select their desired candidate. These ballots were then read by a computer which could calculate the final tally more quickly and accurately than a hand count.

Since the 1990s, many polling stations have been equipped with touch-screen computers. These systems capture and compute votes digitally, yielding fast results.

Galveston’s Polling Places of the Past

Typically made of wood or metal, ballot boxes feature a hinged top which is secured with a lock during the time votes are cast. A thin slot is cut into the top which is large enough to accept a paper ballot, but narrow enough that the ballot cannot be removed manually through the opening. Small and portable, ballot boxes were delivered to designated polling places during election season. In Galveston, polling places were typically set up in schools, churches, and government buildings. It was not uncommon for a private residence to serve as a polling station. As documented in various newspaper accounts over the years, votes could often be cast from a volunteer neighbor’s garage.

Past Treasures