November 3, 2008

From the Newseum Collection #2

South African Ballot Box; Florida Voting Machine

Voters wait in line for the first all-race elections in South Africa. (Denis Farrell/Courtesy The Associated Press)
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Voters wait in line for the first all-race elections in South Africa. (Denis Farrell/Courtesy The Associated Press)

LEFT: South African ballot box. (Newseum collection) RIGHT: Florida voting machine. (James P. Blair/Newseum collection)
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LEFT: South African ballot box. (Newseum collection) RIGHT: Florida voting machine. (James P. Blair/Newseum collection)

Free elections, like a free press, do not exist in many parts of the world. As voters across the United States prepare to elect a new president in what is expected to be heavy voter turnout in the historic 2008 presidential election, they will cast their votes using high-tech electronic machines and old-fashioned paper ballots.

Two treasures from the Newseum collection provide different tales of Election Day around the globe.

Few images better captured political change in Africa than news photographs of South Africans waiting in long lines to vote in 1994 — the first time in the country’s history that the black majority had been allowed to vote. More than 85 percent of South Africa’s eligible voters placed ballots. The landmark elections officially dismantled South Africa’s system of racial separation, known as apartheid, and delivered once-imprisoned Nelson Mandela to the presidency. This ballot box, a gift to the Newseum from South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission, was used near Pretoria. It is on display in the Time Warner World News Gallery.

In the race for the White House in 2000, voting machines and ballots in Florida were almost as big a story as the presidential election, spawning charges that votes mistakenly had gone to the wrong candidate. Many news organizations launched investigations of those complaints. Several voting machines were retired after the 2000 election because of issues with their accuracy and the infamous “hanging chads.” This voting machine from Palm Beach County, Fla., was purchased by the Newseum. It — along with the late Tim Russert’s eraser board — is on display in the News Corporation News History Gallery.

A portion of a Votomatic voting booth that was used in Broward County, Fla., in the 2000 presidential election is located in the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery. It was a gift of Frances Klein and the League of Women Voters of Broward County.

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