The history of the ballot

Ballot papers may at first glance seem like simple pieces of paper. Most of us have probably not questioned how they are designed. But if you scratch the surface, the ballot papers are much more. What a ballot paper looks like says a lot about the country’s political system, as well as what expectations the political system has of the user, ie the voter and the vote counter. Ballot papers can contain different amounts of information about parties and candidates and provide different numbers of choices. Democracy is about values and discourse, but it is through the ballot paper that the voter’s will materializes.

We have for two years in a Nordic co-operation twisted and turned ballot papers from different countries and from different times. The result is the exhibition “The Ballot – Piece of paper or instrument of power” which premiered at the Nordic Embassies in Berlin on September 3, 2021. Click and drag in the image below to walk around the exhibition!

The exhibition shows 50 ballot papers from ten countries. Our ambition has been to follow the development of democracies in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania and Germany by analyzing their ballot papers. In the video below, we present some of the conclusions from the work in the form of a panel debate where different perspectives: the politician, the election observer and the artist give their views on a couple of selected ballot papers.

To help us understand the ballot papers, we have been a broad team with different skills. Spearheading the election expertis we have International IDEA who have invited leading election experts from all over the world to take part in the project. A digital version of the exhibition is on display at the ACE-project.

Please reach out to us if you are interested in the exhibition and want to display it. The content can be adapted for several target groups and to suit both archives, libraries, exhibition rooms and embassies.

We in the project team hope to hear from you!

Fabel, Studio Kalleinen, IESC, Folkevirke, International IDEA

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