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Machining the Vote: A brief history of lever voting machines

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-28-08 05:34 PM
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Machining the Vote: A brief history of lever voting machines



Machining the Vote: A brief history of lever voting machines

by Bryan Pfaffenberger, PhD
Department of Science, Technology, & Society
University of Virginia

May 8, 2008

I've received a Scholar's Award from the National Science Foundation to study the history of lever voting machines, a subject that has never been studied by a scholar with professional training in the history of technology (or in any other discipline, for that matter). I am currently writing a book tentatively titled Machining the Vote, which covers the history of lever machines from their invention in 1888 to the bankruptcy of the leading manufacturer, Automatic Voting Corporation, in 1983.

snip

In my analysis, the lever machine deserves recognition as one of the most astonishing achievements of American technological genius, a fact that is reflected in their continued competitiveness against recent voting technologies in every accepted performance measure. With as many as 28,000 parts, their mechanisms reflect an agonizingly difficult period of development, spanning more than twenty years (1888-1919) in which interlocking mechanisms had to be developed that were capable of dealing with the enormous complexity and variety of American elections. The result was a machine that captures in its immutable mechanical operations the voting rules that the American people, in their wisdom, developed in order to capture the will of the people.

snip

Although lever machines do not produce an independent audit trail, this is -- as software engineers say -- a feature, not a bug. In the 1880s and 1890s, paper ballots emerged as the locus par excellence of election fraud; lever machines were expressly designed to take the human element out of every aspect of the vote recording and counting process in order to eliminate fraud that was gravely undermining Americans' confidence in their democracy.

It is quite astonishing to realize that, while the lever machine was under development, inventors came up with just about every voting machine concept that has since been realized, including precinct-scan punchcard technologies, ballot printing machines, and even electromechanical systems that can be seen as predecessors of computerized technologies. All of these technologies produced paper records, however, and all were flatly rejected, both by voters and election officials, as letting the possibility of fraud in through the back door.

snip

The truth of the matter is that our American election system, in contrast, to the election administration systems of most advanced democracies, is inordinately decentralized, less than professionally administered in many instances, and politicized. In New York, the people, in their wisdom, created a system of election administration AND a technology that solved the characteristic problems of American elections; to abandon lever machines for new technologies that will not gain voter confidence and, at the same time, re-introduce paper audit trails or paper ballots which have long proven to be prone to election fraud, amounts in my opinion to a potentially disastrous mistake.

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http://www.opednews.com/articles/Machining-the-Vote--A-...

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jun-30-08 01:43 AM
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1. It's astonishing.
Over and over we still read in news reports, "HAVA requires that lever machines be replaced".





Yet no where in HAVA is that actually stated.

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-08 04:55 PM
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Bill Bored Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-09-09 06:39 PM
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-08-09 11:19 AM
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