1. News & Issues

Paper Ballot, Optical Scan

History of Voting Systems

By

Optical scan technology was developed in the late 1930s and has been widely used for standardized testing since the 1950s.
Paper Ballot, Optical Scan
However, the technology was not adapted to counting paper ballots until 1968. In the early 1970s, optical scan systems became popular in rural or less populated areas. (cite)

With an optical scan system, a voter marks a paper ballot. A scanner "reads" the ballot and a computer counts the votes. This system clearly shows voter intent (no hanging chads) and can be recounted by hand in a close election (no stopped or jammed counter issue). However, until the advent of digital printing systems, the time and cost of printing ballots was an issue. Optical scan systems consistently score well on tests measuring vote effectiveness: under- and over-counting.

In the 2004 election, about 32% of American voters used an optical scan / paper ballot system.


Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
- Gore Vidal
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. US Politics

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.