Can Paper Save the Republic?
While self-government is a concept with a long history stretching back to the Greeks of classical antiquity, the mechanics of modern democracy is an ongoing story of technological advances.
The first ballots were small balls each representing one vote. These then became paper on which voters would write the name of their preferred candidate. Later, political parties printed “tickets” with the names of all the party’s candidates to ensure legibility (and straight line voting). To make things more fair and private, states adopted the “Australian ballot” which included the names of candidates of all parties printed in equal-sized font and typeface. Paper ballots of some form were the norm until the 1964 presidential election when the first election punch cards and computer tally machines were used in a few counties.
Electronic voting promised to be faster, more accurate and more efficient than traditional methods. By 2004, nearly a third of the registered voters in the United States used some type of direct recording electronic voting system.
Since then, concerns about electronic systems and their vulnerability to hacking or manipulation have created widespread concern for technological voting methods in the United States. Today, only about a third of Americans say they are confident that votes will be counted accurately on Election Day.
Throughout history, when humans wanted to record something really important – whether it was the word of God or the rules for governing a new nation, we wrote it on paper. Time will tell if paper retains this kind of status or goes the way of the horse and buggy in modern elections.