Why chads? Determinants of voting equipment use in the United States
This paper provides an empirical study of the determinants of voting equipment choice in the United States. We document that, in contrast to widespread belief, voting machines of older types, such as lever and punchcard systems, are not used in counties with lower income – and newer machines, such as optical scanners and electronic machines, are not used in – richer counties. We provide an economic explanation for this and other regularities of voting equipment usage in the United States. In our economic framework (a) the adoption of a new technology is more likely in richer and larger counties, but (b) the adoption of a new technology is less likely the more advanced is the technology already adopted in the county. The adoption of more advanced optical and electronic machines in the 1980s and 1990s was less likely in richer and larger counties that had already mechanized and computerized in previous decades than in poorer and smaller – and hence not yet computerized counties. Estimates of historical determinants of voting equipment choice support our hypothesis. In particular, the probability of using punchcard machines in the 1990s is positively related to a county’s income in the 1960s, when punchcard machines were first introduced. When the effect of past income is controlled for, the effect of more recent levels of income on the probability of using punchcard machines becomes negative. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005
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