How Americans Have Voted Through History


  1. Voice vote
  2. The first paper ballots
  3. The Australian ballot
  4. The first voting machines
  5. Punch cards and “Hanging Chads”
  6. Vote by “iPad”
  7. The “scantron” of voting

Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, but the Constitution of the United States does not say exactly how Americans should vote in elections. Article 1, section 4 simply states that it is up to each State to determine “the times, places and procedures for holding elections”. Over the past 200 years, the mechanics of voting have evolved from outdoor “voice votes” to digital consoles with touch screens.

Voice vote

During the first 50 years of the American election, most votes were not held in private and voters did not even make their choice on a ballot. Instead, those who were eligible to vote (only white men at the time) went to the local courthouse and publicly cast their vote.

Known as “oralOr vote by voice, this remarkable form of public voting was the law in most states in the early 19th century, and Kentucky maintained it until 1891. When voters arrived at the courthouse, a judge would have sworn on a Bible that they were who they said they were and that they had not already voted. Once sworn in, the elector would shout his name to the clerk and announce the candidates chosen for each race.

Campaigns and petting were allowed at the polling station, and a a drunken carnival atmosphere often accompanied early elections in the United States, which may explain why elections in the age of voice voting resulted in turnout reaching 85%.


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