History of Voting Machines
The paper ballot
system employs uniform official ballots of various stock weights on which
the names of all candidates and issues are printed. Voters record their
choices, in private, by marking the boxes next to the candidate or issue
choice they select and drop the voted ballot in a sealed ballot box.
ballot system was first adopted in the Australian state of Victoria in
1856, and in the remaining Australian states over the next several years.
The paper ballot system thereafter became known as the "Australian ballot."
New York became the first American State to adopt the paper ballot for
statewide elections in 1889.
As of 1996,
paper ballots were still used by 1.7% of the registered voters in the United
States. They are used as the primary voting system in small communities
and rural areas, and quite often for absentee balloting in other jurisdictions.
(Image: Patent #340,218 - Combined Tally Sheet and Boll Book - Issued April,
1886 - Inventor, Kinnard)
lever voting machines, the name of each candidate or ballot issue choice
is assigned a particular lever in a rectangular array of levers on the
front of the machine. A set of printed strips visible to the voters identifies
the lever assignment for each candidate and issue choice. The levers are
horizontal in their unvoted positions.
The voter enables
the machine with a lever that also closes a privacy curtain. The voter
pulls down selected levers to indicate choices. When the voter exits the
booth by opening the privacy curtain with the handle, the voted levers
are automatically returned to their original horizontal position. As each
lever returns, it causes a connected counter wheel within the machine to
turn one-tenth of a full rotation. The counter wheel, serving as the "ones"
position of the numerical count for the associated lever, drives a "tens"
counter one-tenth of a rotation for each of its full rotations. The "tens"
counter similarly drives a "hundreds" counter. If all mechanical connections
are fully operational during the voting period, and the counters are initially
set to zero, the position of each counter at the close of the polls indicates
the number of votes cast on the lever that drives it. Interlocks in the
machine prevent the voter from voting for more choices than permitted.
The first official
use of a lever type voting machine, known then as the "Myers Automatic
Booth," occurred in Lockport, New York in 1892. Four years later, they
were employed on a large scale in the city of Rochester, New York, and
soon were adopted statewide. By 1930, lever machines had been installed
in virtually every major city in the United States, and by the 1960ís well
over half of the Nationís votes were being cast on these machines.
lever machines were used by 20.7% of registered voters in the United States
as of the 1996 Presidential election. Because these machines are no longer
made, the trend is to replace them with computer-based marksense or direct
recording electronic systems.
employ a card (or cards) and a small clipboard-sized device for recording
votes. Voters punch holes in the cards (with a supplied punch device) opposite
their candidate or ballot issue choice. After voting, the voter may place
the ballot in a ballot box, or the ballot may be fed into a computer vote-tabulating
device at the precinct.
types of punchcards are the "votomatic" card and the "datavote" card. With
the votomatic, the locations at which holes may be punched to indicate
votes are each assigned numbers. The number of the hole is the only information
printed on the card. The list of candidates or ballot issue choices and
directions for punching the corresponding holes are printed in a separate
booklet. (Todayís "votomatic" cards are the direct descendents of the original
punchcard developed from a concept introduced by political scientist and
former government administrator Dr. Joseph P. Harris) With the datavote,
the name of the candidate or description of the issue choice is printed
on the ballot next to the location of the hole to be punched.
De Kalb Counties in Georgia were the first jurisdictions to use punchcards
and computer tally machines when they adopted the system for the 1964 primary
election. In the November 1964 Presidential election, these two jurisdictions
were joined by Lane County, Oregon, and San Joaquin and Monterey Counties
in California, who also adopted the punchcard system.
jurisdictions are now switching from punchcard systems to more advanced
marksense or DRE systems, Los Angeles County, the Nationís largest election
jurisdiction with 3.8 million registered voters, continues to rely on their
punchcard voting system. In the 1996 Presidential election, some variation
of the punchcard system was used by 37.3% of registered voters in the United
U.S. elections, voters use pins to mark the punchcards by hand. The resulting
leftover piece of paper is referred to as a piece of chad, a term originating
from 1947 of unknown origin. Machines can punch chad out cleanly, but people
cannot always do so, resulting in confusing to interpret ballots. New election
terms have been used to describe disturbing ballot chad. Hanging chad means
one corner of the chad is hanging onto the punchcard. Swinging chad means
two corners are attached to the ballot card. Tri chad means three corners
are hanging but the hole has been punched. Pregnant chad means a hole is
punched through the chad but it still hangs on all four sides. Dimpled
chad means there is an indent in the chad but no clean hole has been punched.
(Click on the above image
for an image close-up & a definition of chad.)
Regarding the famous butterfly ballot
- the "butterfly" term refers to the plastic guide that shows the voter,
which hole to punch.
invented a punchcard tabulation machine system for statistical computation.
Herman Hollerith used a punched card device to help analyze the US census
data of 1880. In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company
to make and sell his invention. The company became part of IBM in 1924.
employ a ballot card on which candidates and issue choices are preprinted
next to an empty rectangle, circle, oval, or an incomplete arrow. Voters
record their choices by filling in the rectangle, circle or oval, or by
completing the arrow. After voting, the voters either place the ballot
in a sealed box or feed it into a computer-tabulating device at the precinct.
The tabulating device reads the votes using "dark mark logic," whereby
the computer selects the darkest mark within a given set as the correct
choice or vote. Marksense technology has existed for decades and been used
extensively in such areas as standardized testing and statewide lotteries.
systems are often referred to as optical scan systems, marksense technology
is only one of several methods for recognizing marks on paper through optical
were used by 24.6% of registered voters in the United States for the 1996
Presidential election, and their use is on the rise.
The most recent
configuration in the evolution of voting systems are known as direct recording
electronic, or DRE. They are an electronic implementation of the old mechanical
lever systems. As with the lever machines, there is no ballot; the possible
choices are visible to the voter on the front of the machine. The voter
directly enters choices into electronic storage with the use of a touch-screen,
push buttons, or similar device. An alphabetic keyboard is often provided
with the entry device to allow for the possibility of write-in votes. The
voterís choices are stored in these machines via a memory cartridge, diskette
or smart card and added to the choices of all other voters.
In 1996, 7.7%
of the registered voters in the United States used some type of direct
recording electronic voting system.
of the Voting System Standards Program
(As of November
1970ís, nearly anyone could cobble together a "voting machine", and sell
it to local election officials. Few States had any guidelines for testing
or evaluating these devices. Local officials either had to take the salesmanís
word that the system worked or else depend on the opinion of colleagues
who had already bought it. Voting equipment horror stories -- some of them
funny, some of them downright chilling -- soon began circulating through
the election community. They triggered concerns about the integrity of
the voting process.
1975, the General Accounting Officeís Office of Federal Elections (predecessor
to the Federal Election Commission) signed an interagency agreement with
the National Bureau of Standards to develop operational guidelines that
election administrators could use to help ensure the accuracy and security
of the computer-based vote-tallying process. The resulting March 1975 report,
Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying, concluded that one of
the basic causes for computer-related election problems was the lack of
appropriate technical skills at the State and local level for developing
or implementing written standards, against which voting system hardware
and software could be evaluated.
and comments from State and local election officials led the U.S. Congress
to direct the Federal Election Commission (FEC), in conjunction with the
National Bureau of Standards (now known as the National Institute of Standards
and Technology), to conduct a study on the feasibility of developing voluntary
engineering and procedural performance standards for voting systems used
in the United States. In early 1984, this three-year effort produced Voting
System Standards: A Report on the Feasibility of Developing Voluntary Standards
for Voting Equipment.
Based on the
recommendations in that report, Congress appropriated funds permitting
the Commission to begin developing voluntary national standards for computer-based
voting systems. The FEC began the process in July 1984, and completed it
with the Commissionís approval in January 1990 of the first national performance
and test standards for punchcard, marksense, and direct recording electronic
voting systems. More than 130 State and local election officials, independent
technical experts, vendors, Congressional staff, and others participated
in the effort to produce this document. The FEC spent $285,000 on four
contracts over the course of this effort.
More Voting Machine Patents
provided by United States Patent Office
on this page was reprinted from http://www.fec.gov
copyright Mark Kostabi
Important disclaimer information about this About site.