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Different Voting Systems
Voting systems used on Election Day must work efficiently in order for votes to be collected and counted accurately. Data has been collected on the use of different types of voting systems used in United States elections since 1980. Throughout history, five different types of voting systems have been used: mechanical lever machines, punch cards, hand-counted paper ballots, paper ballots with optical scanning, and electric voting machines. Normally, each jurisdiction sticks to using one voting system during election processes each year. However, some jurisdictions use more than one type of voting system at a time based on impaired voter needs and oversea voters.
Mechanical Lever Machine
Mechanical lever voting machines were the first use of a lever type machine during U.S. elections. Before being spread nationwide, the lever machine was first used in Lockport, New York in 1892. By 1930, the machine was installed in every major city throughout the country. On mechanical lever machines, each candidate or ballot issue choice was assigned to a lever. Voters had to pull down the lever that indicated the candidate of their choice in order to cast a vote. In 1960, more than half of registered voters were casting their votes using the lever machine. Popularity for lever machines significantly decreased in 1996 with only 20.7 percent of voters across the country using mechanical lever machines to vote. By 2010, mechanical lever voting machines were completely discontinued.
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Two counties in the state of Georgia were the first jurisdictions to use the punch card system during the 1964 primary election. Later that year, during the general presidential election, three more counties in California also incorporated the punch card voting system for elections in their precincts. In 1996, approximately 37.3 percent of registered voters were using punch cards to cast their votes across the country. The punch card voting system requires voters to punch holes assigned to their favored candidate on a voting card. Once they have finished selecting their candidate, voters must drop the voting card in a ballot box where they will be either manually or electronically scanned. The punch card voting system usage has been significantly decreasing over the years with the rise of more technologically advanced voting systems.
The use of paper ballots with optical scan have significantly increased since 1980 as opposed to the use of regular ballots, which essentially ceases to exist today. Regular paper ballots required voters to vote for their candidate with a pen, pencil, or any other marking device. Once their vote was submitted, they were hand counted by election officials. Due to the time consuming task of hand counting votes, paper ballots with optical scans took over the voting system in most states throughout the country. Afterward, all hand-marked ballots ran through an optical scan system, which counts each vote. In 2012, more than half of all voters used a paper ballot optical scan system to cast their vote.
Electronic Voting Machine
Electronic voting systems in the United States are technically called direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. DREs are the newest voting systems available to date. It is essentially an electronic version of the mechanical lever voting systems. The difference, however, is that the voter selects their candidate choice by manually touching a screen, monitor, or wheel that records the vote. Voters can also write in a candidate’s name by using an alphabetical touch-screen keyboard. The votes are then stored electronically and counted according to the computer’s memory. In 2012, 39 percent of all registered voters used a DRE to cast their votes for the general election.