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Ballot Box, Classification of Senators


Image: Ballot Box, Classification of Senators (Cat. no. 79.00006.002)
by Unidentified
Wood, 1912 ca.
Overall measurement
      Height: 4.38 inches  (11.1 cm)
      Width:  17.5 inches  (44.5 cm)
      Depth: 6.63 inches  (16.8 cm)
Cat. no. 79.00006.002

This oval mahogany box with a round handle was used on April 2, 1912, along with its companion, in a ceremony in the U.S. Senate chamber that established the classification of senators for the newly admitted states of New Mexico and Arizona. Senators Thomas B. Catron (R-NM), Albert B. Fall (R-NM), Henry Fountain Ashurst (D-AZ), and Marcus A. Smith (D-AZ) drew lots from the boxes to determine the length of their respective terms.

The drawing, held shortly after the senators were administered the oath of office, was necessary because the members were elected at the same time, and Senate terms expire on a staggered basis—one-third every two years. Thus, the senators took a chance on a six-year, a four-year, or two-year term. Two boxes, of slightly different designs, were used so that two senators from the same state could not select a term of the same length.

When Hawaii and Alaska, the most recently admitted states, sent their first two senators in 1959, the wooden boxes were again used for the same purpose.