These are the ballots a bishop would have used to vote on a document or on part of a document. You can see that there are little punch holes in the ballot, and they would determine what that particular bishop was thinking. So the Bishop could cast a simple yes or no or a maybe.
The ballots are both interesting and rare—you don’t see them out on the market at all; in fact, the only ones I’ve ever seen are the ones I’ve got. And in each case, whoever it was who took these out of the Council, put postage stamps put on them and then had the Vatican post office stamp them for the final day of the Council.
When you look at what those votes did and the influence they had on the Church and its pastoral practices, it’s quite incredible—the courage it took for John XXIII to call an Ecumenical Council was quite significant. And he started to think and talk about it very early on in his papacy. His secretary recalls that in the first few months his desk was littered with problems and questions and situations throughout the church around the world, and they weren’t doctrinal problems; they were pastoral problems. And he sat there one day, and said, “You know, what we need to do is call a Council.” This was the greatest thing to even think, especially with his age, knowing that he probably wouldn’t see it through, but he knew the important thing was that he open it; he start it.
One of the things that is not very well known is that Pius XII was getting a lot of pressure to call a Council himself, and he didn’t. He didn’t think it was the proper time. And it wasn’t the proper time. So John XXIII certainly read the signs of the times.
That’s what he wanted to do–to really bring a breath of fresh air to the Church. And that’s why he called the II Vatican Council.
And that courage and that faith are reasons we call him Saint John XXIII. —Father Richard Kunst
Chapter 9 of Council Regulations for the Second Vatican Council indicated the methods which governed ballots: placet was a yes vote; non placet, a no vote. The votes were cast in public sessions in the presence of the Holy Father. A placet juxta modum vote, meaning yes, but with changes, had to be explained in writing with reasons for the reservations.
The artifact presented here is a punch-card ballot showing the holes for mechanical tabulation. Ballots were cast with these special cards, which were examined by a mechanical system unless the president of the assembly decided otherwise, case by case.
A two-thirds majority in the ballots cast at public sessions was necessary unless special provisions to the contrary were decided by the Holy Father.