NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Uses Punch-Card Ballots?

May 14, 2001

In the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential election and the disputed vote in Florida, a widespread perception emerged that the use of punch cards, and of antiquated voting machinery generally, is more common in counties with a greater percentage of minorities and poor people.

But when Stephen Knack of the World Bank and Martha Kropf of the University of Missouri-Kansas City conducted a comprehensive statistical analysis of this issue, in a study titled "Who Uses Inferior voting Technology?" they found that conventional wisdom was wrong. Among their findings:

  • In Florida and elsewhere larger, wealthier and more tax-rich counties are more likely to use punch card technology, and less likely to use electronic voting systems.
  • In a majority of states in which some but not all counties use punch card technology, whites, the non-poor and Republican voters are actually more likely than African Americans, the poor and Democratic voters to live in punch card counties.
  • Moreover, counties with punch card systems on average have higher personal incomes, higher tax revenues per capita and larger populations than counties with more modern voting technology.

For the U.S. overall, black-white differences in punch card use are negligible: 31.9 percent of whites and 31.4 percent of African Americans live in counties using this voting technology. Hispanics are much more likely to live in punch card counties than either whites or blacks. However, this difference is entirely attributable to Los Angeles County, where nearly one in seven Hispanics in the country reside.

Whites (27.7 percent) are more likely than blacks (21.8 percent) to live in optical scanning counties, but blacks (37.8 percent) are much more likely than whites (26 percent) to live in counties using either of the technologies for which overvoting is nearly impossible if machines are programmed correctly: electronic voting and lever machines.

Source: Stephen Knack, Testimony, Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, May 9,2001.


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