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Every Vote Counts 
Part 1: A Look at Voting Machine Patents
Every Vote Counts
Part 2: History of Voting Methods & Machines
More on Voting and Voting Machines
A Brief History of the Electoral College (PDF format)
Voting Machines
The Ballot

By Mary Bellis

In democratic nations, voting is a method by which groups of people choose their leaders and decide public issues. In the United States, voting is considered one of the most important rights of a citizen with that right being guaranteed by the constitution.

In the 1700's, oral elections were conducted. The states later switched to written ballots, requiring the voters to sign their ballots. Some citizens, however, feared that others might react negatively if they voted as they wished. States began using secret ballots so that each voter could choose or vote freely with anonymity.

Today, voting machines are commonly employed to provide secrecy and simplify vote counting. Various types of voting machines are employed including, but not limited to, mechanical levers, electronic scanners, optical scanners and punchcard machines.

In honor of all the confusion surrounding the year 2000 presidential election - I have put together a collection of voting machine patents issued throughout the years. Hundreds of voting and electoral devices have been invented - maybe some of them work?
Patent Drawing - Toy Ghost Detector Device
Method and apparatus for voting
Inventor - Roland Harp
Patent #5,585,612
Date - December 17, 1996

A voting machine is provided allowing an illiterate, sight impaired or blind individual to cast a vote in privacy and without assistance from another party. The voting machine includes a ballot box having a plurality of voting mechanisms for allowing the individual to cast a vote. One voting mechanism is provided for each election candidate/each side of an election issue. The voting machine also includes an audio player that plays an audio presentation that guides the individual through the voting process by identifying each voting mechanism. A tactile and visual map may also be provided. The map cooperates with the audio presentation to orient the individual for voting. A method is also disclosed.

Voting machine with punch card attachment
Voting machine with punch card attachment
Inventor - Cothburn O'Neal
Patent #4,025,040
Date - May 24, 1977
A compact, lightweight, manually operated voting machine with provisions for straight ticket, selective and write-in voting, and for choosing two or more candidates from a list of several running at large; with provision for recording each voter's choice on a punch card for computer counting, and including a mechanical counter automatically totaling the votes for each candidate for confirmation of the punch card count.

Voting Machine Patented on September 15, 1936
Voting Machine
Inventor - S.R Shoup
Patent #2,054,103
Date - September 15, 1936

No privacy here
Voting booth
Inventor - Derry Hobson
Patent #D378,173
Date - February 25, 1997
The ornamental design for a voting booth, as shown and described.

Voting on the go!
Mobile voting service
Inventor - Oscar Smith
Patent #4,377,367
Date - March 22, 1983
The mobile voting service includes a vehicle having a driving cab and body mounted on a chassis. Preferably four voting booth are disposed inside the vehicle body to take the booths to voters located at various locations such as hospitals, military installations, low income housing areas, nursing homes, industrial plants, businesses, and rural areas to permit them to vote for the candidate of their choice. The vehicle further includes a two-way communication system, office equipment, and a hydraulic lift mounted on the vehicle body adjacent a door opening into the vehicle. The hydraulic lift includes a platform with at least one hydraulic support and hydraulic equipment for raising and lowering the platform with respect to the vehicle body. The hydraulic lift may be used to install the voting booths and office equipment or to permit handicapped voters to enter and exit the vehicle body for voting purposes. The voting vehicle may further include a bathroom and sleeping quarters for the personnel operating the vehicle and voting booths.

Next page > From Paper Ballots to Computerized Voting Methods > Page 1, 2

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Patent drawings and abstracts provided by United States Patent Office

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