Ballot box

Ballot box, Eighteenth century
Mahogany with brass handles and ivory labels
36 x 24 x 32 (cm)
Society of Antiquaries of London

Evans 1956; London 2007, no. 36
full bibliography (pdf)
 This ballot box is an early example of those still used at Society elections, and is likely to be the one ordered by the new President, Edward King, in 1784. Balloting for new members first took place in 1718: 'It was Ordered by the Society yt all Members to be Admitted into the same be Balloted for and that a Balloting Box be Prepar'd for the Purpose.' To be elected, a person shall be 'excelling in the knowledge of the antiquities and history of this and other nations' and be 'desirous to promote the honour, business and emoluments of the Society'.

The Royal Charter granted to the Society by George II in 1751 permitted members to be called Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA). The number of Fellows was then limited to 150; it currently stands at over 2,400. Proposals for membership can come only from existing Fellows; a candidate must have at least five and up to twelve nominations. The candidate's name is then included in the next available secret ballot, of which there are now routinely seven a year. Originally Fellows could only vote in person but today they also have the choice of casting their vote by post or online.

Through the circular opening of the box voters insert their hand in order to drop a cork ball into either side of the 'yea' or 'no' partition. The Society uses 25 such boxes at meetings today. To be successful, a candidate needs to achieve a ratio of four 'yea' votes for every no or 'blackball'. Failure to be elected is known as being 'blackballed'.