The Evolution of Ballot Papers - Countries’ Political History Through the Design of Ballot Papers

Through this interactive multimedia timeline, you can explore how ballots have evolved in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, and  Sweden.  Moreover, you will be able to view ballots that were used in historic elections. This includes the ballot used for the 1994 South African Parliament election which marked the first election with universal suffrage and the so-called butterfly ballot used during the contested 2000 US Presidential election. 

The way ballot papers are fashioned changed sharply among countries and throughout history and it constitutes a meaningful tool to comprehend election systems and the deep interrelation between stakeholders.


"The design of a ballot paper is important to election administrators as a key tool to understand the voter’s intentions and political choices: a good design presents clear and understandable options to voter and reduces the chances of voter error. But beyond this utilitarian function, the ballot carries a powerful symbolic value of the compact between the citizen and the state, or, more simply put:  ‘my vote matters’.  

This exhibition presents a range of ballots that illustrate these design choices and historical significance – from the 2000 Florida Gore – Bush ‘hanging chad’ ballot, to the South African 1994 first post-apartheid ballot." 

Therese Pearce-Laanela Head of Electoral Processes, International IDEA

“In this exhibition of ballot papers spanning 100 years the main focus is on five countries. We can see how the ballots mirror and change with historical context, societal demands, geopolitical influences but also with trends in graphic design. One observation is the influence and spread of the party focused French ballot system in the earlier part of the 20th century, and how this gets replaced over time by the the single, government-issued, Australian ballot. “

Max Valentin Ballots Exhibition lead, Fabel