Definitions

voting machine

voting machine

voting machine, instrument for recording and counting votes. The voting machine itself is generally positioned in a booth, often closed off by a curtain to assure secrecy for the voter.

In the case of older mechanical voting machines, when a voter enters the booth and closes the curtain by means of a lever, the machine unlocks for voting. The titles of all elective offices are listed on the face of the machine along with the party candidates running for each office. Above each name is a lever which, when depressed, indicates a vote for that candidate. Only one candidate for each office may be selected. Write-in votes are possible and propositions are placed at the top of the ballot. When the voter pulls the curtain open to leave, the machine automatically registers the vote and is cleared for use by the next person.

The mecahnical voting machine was first used in New York state in 1892, and came to be used throughout the United States. Faster and more accurate in tabulating the vote than the paper ballot, mechanical voting machines were gradually replaced in many parts of the United States in the late 20th cent. by so-called electronic or computerized voting machines. In one form of electronic voting, voters indicate their preferences using punch cards that are read by computer, but in the United States punch cards fell out of favor after their use led to controversy in the 2000 presidential election. Both lever-type mechanical voting machines and punch-card-based machines were replaced by other systems with federal aid provided under the Help American Vote Act (2002).

Other modern voting technologies include the optical-scan system, in which marked ballots are read by computer using optical sensing, and the direct-record electronic voting system, in which a voter chooses a candidate by means of push buttons or touch screens on a computerized voting machine, which tallies the votes. A number of experts, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have called for direct-record electronic systems to have increased safeguards against potential computer tampering and/or to provide a paper record of an individual's vote so that a non-electronic means of recounting a challenged electoral result would exist.

Estonia has used Internet voting, via a website, as an alternative form of voting. Voters use a computer-readable identification card and enter two passwords before they vote. The method was pioneered in local elections in 2005 and used in national elections in 2007.

The voting machine's greatest asset is protection against voting fraud or human error. However, critics claim that it intimidates some citizens, that some machines are subject to breakdown, and that fraud is not completely eliminated. Computerized voting machines that use punch cards are also susceptible to voter error, as they lack the means to prevent a person from voting for two candidates for the same office, and can fail to register a vote clearly.

For many years the United States was the only country that used voting machines extensively; Brazil now uses a national computerized voting system. The cost of voting machines, combined with less frequent elections and simpler ballots in many countries, make them impractical for worldwide use.

Voting machines are the total combination of mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic equipment (including software, firmware, and documentation required to program control, and support equipment), that is used to define ballots; to cast and count votes; to report or display election results; and to maintain and produce any audit trail information. The first voting machines were mechanical but it is increasingly more common to use electronic voting machines.

A voting system includes the practices and associated documentation used to identify system components and versions of such components; to test the system during its development and maintenance; to maintain records of system errors or defects; to determine specific changes made after initial certification; and to make available any materials to the voter (such as notices, instructions, forms, or paper ballots).

Traditionally, a voting machine has been defined by the mechanism the system uses to cast votes and further categorized by the location where the system tabulates the votes.

Voting machines have different usability, security, efficiency and accuracy. Certain systems may be more or less accessible to all voters, or not accessible to those voters with certain types of disabilities. They can also have an effect on the public's ability to oversee elections.

Voting systems recording technologies

Document ballot voting system

A document ballot voting system records votes, counts votes, and produces a tabulation of the vote count from votes cast on paper cards or sheets. A document ballot voting system can allow for manual or electronic tabulation.

Manually marked and tabulated paper ballots

The first use of paper ballots to conduct an election appears to have been in Rome in 139 BCE, and the first use of paper ballots in the United States was in 1629 to select a pastor for the Salem Church.

Punch card

Punchcard 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.

In the 1996 Presidential election, some variation of the punchcard system was used by 37.3% of registered voters in the United States.

Optical scan (Marksense)

An optical scan, or marksense voting system allows a voter to record votes by making marks directly on the ballot, usually in voting response locations.

With electronic input device

A paper-based system may allow for the voter's selections to be indicated by marks made on a paper ballot by an electronic input device.
Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail
Some traditionally non-document ballot voting systems may print a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to serve as a document (ballot) for each vote.
Electronic Ballot Marker
The Electronic Ballot Marker (EBM) is categorized as any such input device that does not independently record, store, or tabulate the voter selections.

Non-document ballot voting system

Direct-recording voting system

Commonly used in the United States until the 1990s (and commonly known as lever machines), direct recording voting systems are mechanical systems to tabulate votes. Commonly, a voter enters the machine and pulls a lever to close the curtain, thus unlocking the voting levers. The voter then makes his or her selection from a list of switches denoting the appropriate candidates or measures. The machine is configured to prevent overvotes by locking out other candidates when one candidate's switch is flipped. When the voter is finished, a lever is pulled which opens the curtain and increments the appropriate counters for each candidate and measure. The results are then hand written by the precinct officer at the conclusion of voting. New York and Connecticut are some of the few states that still permit the use of these machines, allowing them time to explore alternatives. .

Direct-recording electronic voting system

The successor to direct recording voting machines, a direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting system records votes by means of an electronic display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter; that processes voter selections by means of a computer program; and that records that processed voting data in memory components. It produces a tabulation of the voting data that is stored in a removable memory component and may also provide printed renditions of the data. The system may further provide a means for transmitting the processed vote data to a central location in individual or accumulated forms for consolidating and reporting results from precincts at a central location. DRE systems additionally can produce a paper ballot printout that can be verified by the voter before they cast their ballot.

Public network direct-recording electronic voting system

A public network DRE voting system is an election system that uses electronic ballots and transmits vote data from the polling place to another location over a public network. Vote data may be transmitted as individual ballots as they are cast, periodically as batches of ballots throughout the election day, or as one batch at the close of voting.

Voting system tabulation technologies

Most voting systems (whether document ballot or non-document ballot) can be tabulated either at the place of voting or in another location. In this case "precinct" is the place of voting.

Precinct-count voting system

A precinct-count voting system is a voting system that tabulates ballots at the polling place. Generally, systems that hand count the ballots will tabulate the ballots only after the close of polling. Other voting systems typically tabulate the ballots as they are cast. In all systems, the vote totals are made public only after the close of polling. For DREs and some paper-based systems these systems provide electronic storage of the vote count and may transmit results to a central location over public telecommunication networks. This system allows for voters to be notified of voting errors such as over voting and can prevent residual votes.

Central count voting system

A central count voting system is a voting system that tabulates ballots from multiple precincts at a central location. Voted ballots are typically placed into secure storage at the polling place. Stored ballots are transported or transmitted to a central counting location. The system produces a printed report of the vote count, and may produce a report stored on electronic media.

See also

References

External links

Election Administration

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