The Australian Ballot

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.
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Photo by: Special Collections Department of the Iowa State Historical Society Library / Caption by:

Civil War absentee ballot

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.
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Photo by: Smithsonian National Postal Museum / Caption by:

Mechanical voting machine

An early mechanical voting machine, with the right curtain hanging down and the left curtain pulled back, seen in 1903.
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Photo by: Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. / Caption by:

Paper impressions

A man makes an impression on a large piece of paper used with a voting machine in Chicago while two men watch in 1904.
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Photo by: Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. / Caption by:

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.
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Photo by: Herbert A. French / Caption by:

Bobroff voting machine

The Bobroff voting machine display board, seen here in Wisconsin, was the first electric voting machine used by a legislative body, installed in 1917.

Although it was the first of its kind used anywhere in the United States, other state legislatures quickly had similar devices installed.

The machine recorded a roll call in 11 seconds and developed a photographic record of all votes in 24 seconds.
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Photo by: Harris & Ewing / Caption by:

Replacing the rubber stamp in the House

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.
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Photo by: Harris & Ewing / Caption by:

Votomatic punchcards

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.
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Photo by: Douglas W. Jones / Caption by:

Votomatic chads

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.
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Photo by: Douglas W. Jones / Caption by:

Data-Punch machine

A Data-Punch machine is shown here with a Votomatic ballot inserted with the punching stylus pushed through voting position 72.
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Photo by: Douglas W. Jones / Caption by:

Votomatic machines used in the 2000 election in Florida

Votomatic voting machines like this one were used in the 2000 election in Florida and unfortunately brought the phrase "hanging chad" into the public lexicon for the first time.
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Photo by: National Museum of American History. Original uploader was Electiontechnology at en.wikipedia / Caption by:

An official Palm Beach County Votomatic voting machine

An official Palm Beach County Votomatic voting machine used in the 2000 election.
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Photo by: Lindsay France / Cornell University photography / Caption by:

Optech Insight scanning voting machine

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.
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Photo by: VerifiedVoting.org / Caption by:
All-electronic voting systems, such as the eSlate, are in use in a handful of states including Texas. This paperless system, obviously, has its critics too.
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Photo by: VerifiedVoting.org / Caption by:

First time voter

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.
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Photo by: Chris Kosakowski / Caption by:

Touchscreen voting in Arizona

A touchscreen voting machine on election day in Arizona on November 6, 2012.
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Photo by: Scott Martin / Caption by:

Voting in Los Angeles county

Edgar Garcia posed this photo to Instagram when he voted this morning at Sylmar Park Recreation Center in Sylmar, Calif.
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Photo by: Edgar Garcia / Caption by:

First time voter in Orange County, Calif.

Lisa Mueller just turned 18 this past Friday, November 2nd, 2012, and is first-time voter today in Orange County.
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Photo by: Lisa Mueller / Caption by:

Voting in Shirley, Massachusetts

A voting booth this morning in Shirley, Massachusetts.
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Photo by: Roger Shepard / Caption by:

Abandoned voting machines

Instagram user @_lisa860 found these old, out of use voting machines today inside the former Colt firearms factory in Hartford, Connecticut.
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Photo by: Instagram user @_lisa860 / Caption by:

Huntington Beach, California

Voting machines this morning at a polling place in Huntington Beach, California.
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Photo by: Photo courtesy of Yanira Ruiz / Caption by:

Casting votes in New Jersey

Angie Mason casts her vote this morning in New Jersey.
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Photo by: www.angiemason.com / Caption by:
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