Punched Card Ballots
This card is perforated so that it can be torn into three pieces; the middle piece holds space for write-in votes and may be folded over the card to provide a bit of privacy when handling the card. The left end (as pictured), when torn off, may be processed using standard punch-card data processing equipment, while a short stub at the right end may be printed with a serial number (required in some jurisdictions) or used for binding ballots into pads for distribution at the polling place. High resolution scans of these pieces are available: left, middle, right.
The Votomatic system of punched-card voting was developed by IBM and first used in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, Georgia, in the 1964 primary. By the general election that fall, several counties in Oregon and California had moved to this new technology. IBM abandoned this technology to several other companies after problems arose in the late 1960's, but this did not stop this technology from becoming the most widely used voting technology in the United States during the 1980's. Public attention to the shortcomings of this voting technology only arose during the recount battle following the November 2000 general election in Florida.
This is just the leftmost portion of a used 235-position Votomatic ballot card. The first 135 positions on this ballot are formatted exactly as they are in the 228 position ballot, and by eliminating the row-to-row stagger in the final 5 rows, 7 more voting positions are squeezed in. A high resolution scan is available.
It is not obvious why the rows in the 228 position ballot and the first 7 rows of the 235 position ballot are staggered. One possibility is that, without this stagger, it is possible that there will be as many as 12 punches in one column of the punched card, as seen by the card reader. Classical electromechanical card sorters are not designed to sort cards with more than 3 punches per column, and many computer interfaces to card readers are require awkward programming techniques to access the raw binary image of the card, while they are fairly easy to use for punch combinations that correspond to legal characters in the Hollerith encoding used for punched cards. Most (but not all) of the possible hole combinations on the 228 position ballot satify this constraint.
As with the 228 position ballot above, this card was perforated so that it could be torn into three; only the two leftmost pieces are shown here, after tearing the ballot from a bound booklet of ballots. This example is a demonstrator ballot; these are used to demonstrate the Votomatic system to voters, and they are used in pre and post election testing. If such a ballot were to be accidentally deposited in the ballot box, it would be important to prevent its being counted, so they are typically a different color from the official ballots in an election, and as illustrated here, the ballot is clearly marked as a demonstrator. In addition, the ballot stub has no space for write-in votes, and it is not big enough to fold over as a privacy cover. A high resolution scan is available.
A puzzling feature of this ballot is the perforated line of sprocket holes down the length of the ballot. Whe Votomatic ballots are processed at centralized counting centers, standard punched-card readers or tabulating machines are used; these have no need for such sprocket-feed holes. Obviously, at least one maker of readers for the Votomatic ballot has built their own nonstandard card-feed mechanisms!
A stack of pre-scored punched card ballots was issued as part of the credentials packet to each delegate to the 1984 Iowa State Democratic Convention, along with a bit of styrofoam to back ballots during punching and a paperclip to use as a punching stylus. This is identically the same technology as is used with "votomatic" ballots, when sent through the mail for absentee voting, but the ballot format reflects its use in the context of a political convention. The use of the ballot for yes-no votes on platform issues is straightforward. When electing delegates to the national convention or to national party committees, each candidate was assigned a number, and (depending on the context), delegates could vote for up to 5 candidates per round of balloting. Elections carried out on the convention floor were not by secret ballot, so each delegate's ballots were pre-punched with the delegate ID and ballot number, and there is space for the delegate to sign the ballot. A high resolution scan is available.
This ballot was issued as part of the credentials packet to a delegate to the 1988 Iowa Democratic Convention. By this time, the state had banned the use of "votomatic" style ballots for all but absentee voting in general elections, and the party convention, therefore, switched to optical mark-sense balloting on the convention floor. This ballot format was used only for Elections carried out on the convention floor were not by secret ballot, so each delegate's ballots were pre-punched with the delegate ID and ballot number. A high resolution scan is available.
This ballot was issued as part of the credentials packet to a delegate to an Iowa Democratic Convention in the late 1980's. These ballots were used for votes on platform planks in those cases where voice votes and standing divisions of the house were deemed insufficient. This card is designed to carry less information than any other card in this collection, but it is not just one bit of information; elections carried out on the convention floor were not by secret ballot, so each delegate's ballots were pre-punched with the delegate ID and ballot number. A high resolution scan is available.