1. News & Issues

Electromechanical Counting, Punch Cards

History of Voting Systems


Voter rolls grew throughout the 20th century, from women's suffrage to the Civil Rights Act. Enter a new technology, computers, in the voting mix.
Electromechanical Counting, Punch Cards
The technology underlying punch card voting systems was pioneered in 19th century France by Joseph-Marie Jacquard to operate textile looms. The first use of such a system in the US was in 1890 to collate information from the national census. (cite)

The Coyle Voting Machine, the first voting system based on punch cards, was used in Butler and Greene Counties, Ohio, in 1961. In 1964, the Votomatic was used in California, Georgia and Oregon. IBM purchased the patent rights from Joseph P. Harris, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley; they called the machine the IBM Votomatic. By 1982, about half of the American electorate used a punch-card system to vote. (cite)

The Florida vote in 2000 introduced the American voter to the "butterfly ballot," "hanging chads," and a degree of unreliability in the voting system that led public officials (Congress) to cast the aging punch card system aside. Without a lot of thought.

Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.
- Josef Stalin
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. US Politics

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.