We are excited to have received a new item recently—a vintage voting machine—thanks to Dean Charles Bierbauer of the College of Information and Communication. Close examination shows it was most recently used in Palm Beach County, Florida, during the presidential election of 2000. Palm Beach County was the epicenter of that election’s historic recount controversy.
An incredibly close contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore hinged on Florida and the recount of the Florida vote. Previously unfamiliar, but suddenly ubiquitous, was the technical vocabulary about these Palm Beach County voting machines, with their punch-card “butterfly” ballots and a tendency towards “hanging” and “pregnant” chads. Disputes over the counting of ballots in Palm Beach County led to court challenges including Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board et al. and Bush v. Gore, both of which wound up in the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court’s decision in the latter case ultimately allowed certification of Florida’s electoral votes for George W. Bush, giving him a narrow Electoral College victory.
(See a post about our other voting machine received from Congressman Joe Wilson’s office back in 2012. You may have seen it on exhibit here in the Hollings Library, and even voted on it as part of our mock election this past fall!)
By Dorothy Walker