IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Why chads? Determinants of voting equipment use in the United States


  • Phillip Garner
  • Enrico Spolaore



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

Suggested Citation

  • Phillip Garner & Enrico Spolaore, 2005. "Why chads? Determinants of voting equipment use in the United States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 363-392, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:123:y:2005:i:3:p:363-392
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-005-7167-0

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Knack, Stephen & Kropf, Martha, 2002. "Who Uses Inferior Voting Technology?," MPRA Paper 27241, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. John R. Lott & Jr., 2003. "Nonvoted Ballots and Discrimination in Florida," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 181-220, January.
    3. Brezis, Elise S & Krugman, Paul R & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1993. "Leapfrogging in International Competition: A Theory of Cycles in National Technological Leadership," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1211-1219, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kelly Shue & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2009. "Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 229-257, February.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:123:y:2005:i:3:p:363-392. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.