Skip over navigation

Patenting Your Vote

Choosing Candidate A over Candidate B can be hard, but the system works best if the vote-counting process is easy. That’s where intellectual property (IP) comes in. Over the years, the way we record votes for Candidate A or Candidate B has changed. You’ll find patents behind much of that technology.

As Americans embrace their Constitutional right to vote, they’ll have IP all around them. Take a look at some of the historic patents that have shaped our election process.

Patent no. 248,130 - Oct. 11, 1881

Patent no. 248,130 was issued to Anthony. C. Beranek of Chicago for this voting apparatus. In his patent, Beranek claimed “by means of this device all fraud is prevented and ballot-box stuffing impossible.”

Patent 248,130


Patent no. 340,218 - April 20, 1886

Patent no. 340,218 was issued to William M. Kinnard of Dayton, Ohio for this combined tally sheet and poll book. Kinnard claimed in the patent that his book provides a readily accessible, accurate, and compact list of voters, candidates, and the numbers of votes cast for each candidate.

Patent no. 340,218


Patent no. 440,545 - November 11, 1890

Patent no. 440,545 was issued to Kennedy Dougan of Missoula, Mont. for this ballot-holder. Dougan’s ballot holder had a roll of paper that allowed a voter to make a perforation for a candidate. The roll would then be advanced to a clean ballot for the next voter.

Patent no. 440,545


Patent no. 628,905 - July 11, 1899

Patent no. 628,905 was issued to Alfred J. Gillespie of Rochester, N.Y. Gillespie's machine pulled a curtain around the voter in preparation for the votes to be recorded.

Patent no. 628,905


Patent no. 2,054,102 - September 13, 1936

Patent no. 2,054,102 was issued to Samuel R. Shoup and Ransom F. Shoup of Brooklyn, N.Y. for this voting machine. More than two dozen drawings are part of the patent, highlighting the invention’s operation and features.

Patent no. 2,054,102


Patent no. 4,025,040 - May 24, 1977

Patent no. 4,025,040 was issued to Cothburn M. O'Neal of Arlington, Texas for this voting machine with punch card attachment. O’Neal’s machine made a recording of each voter’s choice on a punch card for computer counting.

Patent no. 4,025,040


Patent no. 4,377,367 - March 22, 1983

Patent no. 4,377,367 was issued to Oscar W. Smith of Pasadena, Texas for a mobile voting service that gives new meaning to a tailgate party. Smith’s patent places (preferably) four voting booths into the vehicle body to be driven to voters at various locations, such as hospitals, military installations, low income housing areas, nursing homes, industrial plants, etc. A hydraulic lift assists handicapped voters. It may also include a bathroom and sleeping quarters for the personnel operating it.

Patent no. 4,377,367


Patent no. 5,585,612 - December 17, 1996

Patent no. 5,585,612 was issued to Roland J. Harp Jr. of Winchester, Kentucky for this method and apparatus for voting. Using an audio presentation, Harp’s voting machine gave an illiterate, sight impaired, or blind individual an opportunity to cast a vote in privacy and without assistance from another party.

Patent no. 5,585,612


United States Patent and Trademark Office
This page is owned by Office of the Chief Communications Officer.
Last Modified: 11/6/2012 10:26:53 AM