Amid all the problems that have been solved with advances in technology, the simple act of tallying votes is still an arduous task in America.
The mess of the American voting system is partly due to the fact that the Constitution gives states the job of running elections, resulting in an inconsistent, mismatched system patching together paper slips, manual punch cards, mechanical tallies, and advanced electronics like touch screens.
Here, one of the most basic forms of voting, a simple card known as the Australian Ballot is seen from an 1893 Iowa City municipal election. New York became the first U.S. state to officially adopt the paper ballot for statewide elections in 1889.
Like democracy, voting itself is still a work in progress. Here is a short history of how we vote and the methods used to tally the will of the people, including some real time photos from this Election Day.
Photo by: Special Collections Department of the Iowa State Historical Society Library
/ Caption by:James Martin
During the Civil War absentee balloting for the military was introduced for state elections. The pre-printed envelope seen here contained a tally sheet of votes from the soldiers of Highland County, Ohio, stationed at the Field Hospital 2nd Division 23rd Army Corps in Atlanta.
Photo by: Smithsonian National Postal Museum
/ Caption by:James Martin
Marshall F. Thompson demonstrating to the Virginia Legislature
The first Roll-Call voting system was demonstrated to the U.S. Congress in 1922 by Marshall Thompson of what was then known as the Thompson Voting Machine Co.
Years later, Thompson and his brother would form International Roll-Call after innovating the voting process with a series of patents, eventually leading to a high-speed electrical voting machine in 1942.
Here, Thompson demonstrates the the Thompson Voting Machine to the Virginia Legislature in 1922.
Prior to the use of this electric voting machine, seen in 1938, it took at least three months using a rubber stamp system to compile the voting records of the 435 members of the House of Representatives.
Recording the yeas and nays, absent and present, and paired for and paired against votes of each individual member, the machine which is similar to an adding machine, did the same job in less than two weeks, and with greater accuracy.
In 1965, Joseph Harris, with the help of William Rouverol, patented the Votomatic punchcard voting system in which a voter marks choice by punching a hole in a prescored card marked with numbers which correspond to candidates and ballot issues listed in a separate booklet.
The votes were then tabulated by a computerized counting machine. Eventually this system became the most commonly used type of punchcard voting system.
A Votomatic ballot seen from the back. An incomplete punch in which the paper is only partially detatched from the card from which it was punched is infamously known as either a "trapdoor chad" if hanging by 2 corners, or a "dangling chad" if hanging by 1 corner.
Among the myriad of newer voting options are optical scan machines, which are used to read and tabulate ballots at the polling place.
The Optech Insight consists of an electronic ballot counting device that sits on top of a ballot box and scans the ballot for a voter's choices, tabulating the results after the polls close, then printing a paper copy and writing to an internal memory card.
Other options include entirely electronic systems with no paper backup.
For a real-time look at modern day voting, we are featuring a series of photos taken by Instagram users from inside polling places around the country, showcasing the different types of technologies used in tallying the 2012 election.
Here, Syracuse University senior Chris Kosakowski, (Instagram user @ummitschris) 21, votes for the first time in New York this morning.