MIT: Types of voting technologies can affect the likelihood that votes are counted correctly

October 17, 2012
Charles Stewart III

Originally published on March 21, 2011

A renewed, energetic interest in voting technologies erupted in political science following the 2000 presidential election. Spawned initially by the recount controversy in Florida, the literature has grown to consider the effects of voting technologies on the vote choice more generally. This literature has explained why localities have the voting technologies (lever machines, punch cards, etc.) they use. Although there are racial differences in the distribution of voting technologies used across localities, the strongest explanations for why local jurisdictions use particular technologies rest on legacies of past decisions. The bulk of the voting technology literature has focused on explaining how voting technologies influence residual votes, that is, blank, undervoted, and overvoted ballots. With the relative homogenization of voting technology since 2000, prospects for research that examines the effects of different machines on residual votes seem limited. However, opportunities exist to study the effect of voting machines historically, the effect of voting technologies on down-ballot rates, and the role of interest groups in affecting which voting technologies are made available to voters.