Gear-and-Lever Voting Machine

Conceived and developed in the late 19th century, the layout of the gear-and-lever voting machine approximates that of the Australian or blanket ballot. This type of voting machine, however, does not use paper ballots. The face of the machine shows a rectangular array of small levers, each identified by a label. Each party's candidates may be shown in one row or one column, depending on the manufacturer of the machine. The party name, and possibly a party symbol, may be shown at the top of the column or to the left of the row. The name of the candidate is shown on the label associated with each lever. Behind the face of the machine, unseen by the voter, is a set of counters or odometers that have at least three decimal digits each. There is one odometer for each candidate or referenda issue, allowing for a maximum vote per candidate of 999.

To unlock the machine, the voter pulls a large lever closing the curtain behind himself or herself to provide privacy. The movement of the lever closing the curtain unlocks the machine for voting. To vote, the voter pulls down the levers of the desired candidates and referendum issues. It is impossible to over vote—that is, to turn down more levers than are allowed for an office or issue. For example, in a "vote for one" contest, only one lever may be turned; the remaining levers for competing candidates for that particular office are locked in place when any one is turned down.

When the voter has finished voting, the voter opens the curtain. With that motion, the levers that have been pulled down return to their neutral positions. The return of each lever causes the associated odometer to increase by one.

At the close of polls, the machines are opened by election officials to view and record the counters. In older machines, the values of the odometers must be copied on to summary sheets by hand. In newer machines, a printout can be produced that has the odometer values printed on it.

Photo of Sales booklet

Sales booklet

Photo of Instructional model

Instructional model

Photo of Standard voting machine

Standard voting machine