By Olivia Schiffman, HHM Collections Intern
This ballot box, last used in Minnesota’s gubernatorial election of 1914, still holds the place cards that name the men running for office on the state and local level. On November 3, 1914, Minnesotans elected their 18th governor from among six candidates. They also cast votes in equally crowded races for offices ranging from State Treasurer to Supreme Court Clerk.
The majority winner was Democratic candidate Winfield S. Hammond. Unfortunately Hammond would only govern Minnesota for little under a year, dying in office on December 30th, 1915.
Half the population of Minnesota, however, would have no say in the election of Governor Hammond. Women were not able to vote in statewide or national elections, but they were not completely cut out from the election process. They did have the right to vote in school board elections—a constitutional amendment that came in 1875. With such limited voting rights, ballots cast by women posed a problem for election officials. How would they be able to safeguard against the possibility of a woman voting for offices restricted to male votes only?
While many districts had separate voting booths for men and women, this ballot box was used by both. A sign on the back of the machine in the bottom left reads, “BEFORE A WOMAN ENTERS THE BOOTH…” – and follows up with instructions on how to move the adjacent lever. This essentially blocked the possibility of an “illegally cast” ballot.
The election of 1914 would prove to be the twilight years for machines like this one. In 1920 women received their constitutional right to vote, rendering a separate system for men and woman obsolete.
MNHS Gale Family Library’s Guide to Suffrage
Politics of the Past by Zac Farber