Early examples of secret ballots conserved in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Some of the earliest secret ballots used in New Hampshire are now available for public viewing after a lengthy professional conservation project.

Until 1891, political parties printed their own ballots and handed them to voters. Because the ballots differed in appearance, voters’ choices were obvious, enabling parties to pressure voters and offer them “incentives” such as money or hard cider, according to the secretary of state’s office.

After the state took over election operations, it adopted the so-called “Australian” ballot, named for a style of secret ballots created there in 1856. In 2020, former Secretary of State William Gardner started a project with state Archivist Brian Burford to conserve sample ballots from the 1900 presidential election, a process that was completed this month.

The ballots were printed on paper made from highly acidic wood pulp and had become brittle and fragile. Professional conservation experts repaired tears in the paper then washed the ballots in a special solution to neutralize the acid.

The ballots are available for viewing at the state archives.