How Have Voting Machines Evolved Over Time?

voting scanner

Throughout the years, people have had the opportunity to cast their vote in a variety of storied U.S. elections. Today’s voting scanner machines make voting a breeze. But before today’s voting scanner machines existed, how did people cast their vote? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and discuss a few key voting machines throughout time.

Lever Machines: In the 1890s, the first mechanical lever machines were used for voting purposes. With this type of machine, a lever is assigned to each candidate. So to vote for their candidate, the voter simply entered the booth, closed the privacy curtain, and pulled the lever for their selected candidate. When the lever is pulled, the machine records the vote. These machines were so popular that they were still used up until 1996. But since then, more voting machines have gone high tech to help with convenience and accuracy.

Punch Cards: The first punch card system was used in the 1880s. Upon seeing how effective this system was in organizing statistics for the Baltimore Board of Health, the U.S. government decided to use the same system for gathering the 1890 census data. Soon after, the punch card voting system began to be used nationwide. Voters were given voting cards containing small holes. The voter then used a stylus to punch through the hole next to the name of the candidate they were voting for. The card was then dropped into a ballot box or voting machine.

Optical Scanner: This is one of the most advanced ballot scanners that still use actual paper ballots. These image scanners provide a ballot with the candidates’ names on them. The voter will receive said ballot with empty boxes or circles, allowing them to fill in the box or circle next to the candidate they’re voting for. After the ballot is inserted into the machine, it is then read and recorded by a voting scanner. The first optical mark reading system was patented in 1977.

Even though 50% of American adults have purchased a lottery ticket over the past year, millions of Americans partake in elections. And as you can see, voting scanner machines have significantly changed over time. From completely manual machines to card dispensers and scanners, voting machines have evolved over time to keep up with the wants and needs of citizens and the government. Today’s machines are more technologically advanced and basically all of them are computerized to some degree. While there are security concerns with these types of machines, they are certainly convenient and easy to use. So the next time you got to vote, take a second to appreciate the machine you’re using and how it’s changed over the years.