Five. The oldest, paper ballots, were used by 1.7 percent of the U.S. electorate in the last presidential election. Mechanical lever machines, which register votes through counting wheels, not ballots, were introduced in 1892. Though the machines are no longer manufactured, they were used by 20.7 percent of the voters in the 1996 presidential race. The now internationally famous punch-card method of voting, a result of the nascent computer industry, was first used in 1964. In 1996, 37.3 percent of presidential voters cast their ballots that way. Optical scanning, or Marksense systems, like those used to read multiple choice answers on standardized tests, were used by 24.6 percent of voters in the last presidential race. The newest technology, direct recording electronic (DRE), is an electronic update of the old lever machine. Voters enter their choice on touch-screens or through buttons. Last time 7.7 percent of voters made their selection this way.
Explainer thanks Paddy McGuire of the Oregon Secretary of State's office and Eric Olson of the Center for Voting and Democracy. For more information see www.fec.gov.