are the total combination of mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic equipment (including software
, 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
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
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.
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
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.