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Object: Ballot Box

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Title Ballot Box
Production Unknown (cabinetmaker), 1916, New Zealand
Materials wood
Classification ballot boxes
Dimensions Overall: 600mm (Length) x 330mm (Width) x 240mm (Depth)
Credit line Gift of the New Zealand Immigration Service, 1989
Registration number GH003641/1-5

This hexagonal wooden box was one of two used to conscript men into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during World War I. For the ballot, numbered wooden marbles were tumbled in the revolving box. Once the balls were sufficiently scrambled, they were extracted by sliding open a rectangular lockable lid.


Numbers drawn from the first ballot box corresponded to the sequence in which drawers were taken from filing cabinets. Numbers drawn from the second ballot box corresponded to the registration numbers of men who had supplied details in the Military Census under the National Registration Act of 1915. These numbers and personal details were on cards filed in the drawers.

Conscription had been introduced under the Military Service Act in 1916. The first ballot was drawn in November 1916. Monthly ballots were drawn for the duration of the war, in order to maintain reinforcement numbers. In total, 19,548 New Zealand men served overseas as a result of conscription.

Selectively applied

The Military Service Act and conscription applied only to Pakeha men. Maori, permitted to volunteer for military service after some debate, were not conscripted under this law. Instead conscription was applied selectively to iwi, notably Tainui, in 1917.

By the end of the war, 552 Maori men had been conscripted, with 74 of them making it as far as training camp but not overseas. Whether or not this ballot box was used to call up these men is unknown.

Cold War ballots

This box was also utilised after World War II, between 1949 and 1972, to select 18 years olds (later raised to 20) for Compulsory Military Training and National Service.




Related information

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