TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Lever Voting Machines - What's Wrong?

Lever Voting Machines - What's Wrong?

Lisa Hancock (
2 Nov 2004 19:47:13 -0800

My county uses "lever" voting machines, which are wholly mechanical.
You simply push a lever for each desired candidate and when you open
the curtain (a big lever) the votes are recorded on counters.

The machines contain interlockings so you can only vote for the
prescribed number of candidates for an office. That's usually one,
but some offices you vote for three of five candidates (ie town
councils). I understand some newer machines have no such protection
and such overvotes ended up wasting a ballot.

Another advtg is that you enter the machine with an open curtain, pull
a master lever to close it and open the machine to accept your votes,
then pull the master again to record your final votes and open the
curtain. The curtains are large and fully enclosed -- it appears that
modern electronic machines have very tiny curtains or just a small
divider, limiting voter privacy.

Yet I understand these machines are very old and not made anymore.
Other counties went to punch cards and we know about their problems.
Many counties are going electronic but sometimes those machines fail.

Is there a reason mechanical machines are so out of favor? Sure, they
would require maintenance and setup and there is a cost to that, but
that is only twice a year. If the machines were in production, costs
would be lower. A modern generation would probably have newer
mechanical engineering and lighter better wearing gears.

Does anyone know anything about the "Shoup" or "Jamestown" voting
machine companies? They made the machines. (Some models even had
electric curtains, where you flipped a switch and a motor closed the

[public replies please}

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In Chicago, many years ago we had those
mechanical things, where one large lever closed and opened the curtains
and you could not vote without that lever to close the curtains and
the vote(s) was cast when the lever opened the curtains. There were a
few 'medium size' levers inside on the panel (for 'straight ticket'
voting) and many smaller levers for individual candidate voting. And
when you approached the polling place (as close as they could get
*without* blocking the door and at least 100 feet away [to avoid any
charges of 'electioneering'] which is illegal) someone would try to
shove a piece of paper in your hand advising you to 'pull lever X'
(or whichever lever was assigned) to vote a 'straight Democratic
ticket'. 'Straight' meant that you wanted to cast a ballot exclusively
for all the Democratic candidates. I assume the medium size lever
at the start of each row had the effect of mechanically pulling all
the smaller levers which were behind it on that row.

It was **so refreshing** to go vote yesterday and not have a dozen
or more politicians standing in front of the door trying to stuff
papers in your hand as you were trying to walk in. The only thing is,
here in Independence, we vote on large sheets of paper using a special
type of soft lead pencil where we have to totally fill in an oval
circle next to the candidate's name and political affilitation. The
other thing was where we used to go to vote in our ward/precinct at
the SEK senior citizen place down the street from my house, yesterday
they have *five* precincts all voting in one place in five separate
areas of a large basement room in Memorial Hall downtown. I saw my
'ladies (the judges and clerk of election) for my precinct' over at
one table in one area and went over to them, as signs everywhere told
people where to find their precinct. Apparerently the government got
after the city and told them all polling places had to be more handi-
capped accessible, so they had to move out of SEK Senior Citizens.
At first we got a letter in the mail from the county clerk saying our
new polling place was in the basement of the County Detention Center
(the 'jailhouse'), which is theoretically more accessible (no stairs,
entirely at ground level) but further for *me* to have to walk.

Then Charlotte Scott (county clerk) sent a second letter a few days
later saying 'due to scheduling conflicts we have to move you again,
this time to Memorial Hall, in the basement.' Not even in our precinct,
(nor anywhere close to it) she said they would have put us in the
hall at Epiphany Church (which is very close to me) 'except we already
have a precinct voting in there, no room for a second precinct.' We
have four wards in Independence, two precincts each ward, and five of
the eight precincts in total had to go to Memorial Hall basement to
vote, all the way downtown. But having the paper ballots which are
optically scanned (assuming you correctly filled in the oval with your
special lead pencil which the judge gave you) seemed like a good way.

We went into little wooden stalls with curtains on the front of them
which we pulled open or closed by hand, (I have always thought they
were sort of flimsy; I joked once with the judge and told her a strong
wind would blow them over) and our ballots went in metal containers
which covered up the places where we had put marks. When we exited our
little stalls, with the paper in the metal container we handed them
back to one of the judges who slipped it into the voting box *in the
metal container*. The paper fell out into the box then the metal
holding container was taken back for someone else to use. When the
judge put your ballot in the larger container there, then she picked a
little sticker from a sheet of same saying "I voted today in
Independence, have you voted yet?" with a little flag printed on it,
and stuck it on your shirt or wherever.

It was *so refreshing* not to be bombarded with phone calls and/or
people in front of the election places stuffing literature at you, nor
were there any police officers hanging around to maintain order, as
you used to see in Chicago all the time years ago, but like Chicago,
the saloons had to stay closed all day, and were allowed to open at 7
PM, after the voting had concluded. I stopped downtown on my way back
home for a sandwhich (and I had hoped, a beer) but the server said 'no
alcholic drinks of any kind allowed under law today until after
election is finished, but I can get you a coke if you want', and the
bar in the center of the room was totally abandoned. PAT]

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