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Voting StationsBefore dwell there were the Linden-created objects known as voting stations (sometimes also referred to as "voting booths", "voting boxes" and "vote boxes"). The voting station was used in a similar manner to dwell--a builder or property owner would put one out on their property and gain money nightly from the voting station depending on how many residents clicked it to "cast their vote" as a way of saying "nice job" on the build or property.
At first the money from voting stations was tallied on a per-resident basis so, the more votes received, a certain amount of money would be earned with each resident's total being independent. This was later changed so that all money from voting stations was instead taken from a global "pot" of money, divided up between all residents. A specific resident's income from votes then depended on how many votes another resident received. So, say if a resident one day got 50 votes, and no one else got any votes, the resident's nightly total would be a very large sum. But if on another night the resident got 40 votes and a neighbor got 100, the resident's nightly total would be much lower than the previous night. That system is very similar to how dwell used to work.
For a while it was also allowed to have more than one voting station per parcel, but this was soon changed to be limited to one per parcel, or if a resident lived in an apartment, one voting station per resident.
Voting stations were under active development and a number of different versions came into existance: 1.3 (to the left of this information), 1.4 (donated by Lance LeFay), 1.4 mini, and 1.1 mini (donated by Baba Yamamoto). The differences to the resident are not really significant, but, more than likely, code was changed between these versions. When a new version was released there would be a Linden announcement telling everyone to switch versions and the old versions would no longer be counted.
Once dwell was introduced, voting stations were phased out of SL's existence altogether. They no longer give a bonus, though they do still keep count of how many people have voted, make a sound, and, when clicked, turn red and give off light. They also take up a fair amount of prims. This is why they are rarely seen anymore; most people deleted them to save prims. Since then Dwell has been discontinued.
While not a Linden-made or distributed item, the donate box was often present near a voting station. These objects, made by Phil Metalhead, were used mainly to collect donations people gave in order to contribute to the builder's project. Nicely built and made similar to the voting stations, they went very well together. The donate boxes still work; right-clicking the object and selecting "Pay..." enables a resident to donate the amount they wish to the owner of the donate box.
For whatever reason, donate boxes are as rare a sight in SL as voting stations are these days. One might surmise that, since voting stations are no longer around, a "matching" donation box is no longer needed, and much lower-prim donation receptacles are being used instead.