The Voting Machine Problem


No vote-counting method can ever be perfect, because no technology can ever be perfect—and that’s because technology is but the continuation of human activity by other means. William Rouverol came up with an especially elegant solution in 1963. It was cheap, efficient, portable, and fast, and it solved far more problems than it introduced. But like any technology, it had its flaws: its tendency to clog with chad if not repeatedly emptied and to partially punch ballots if not perfectly maintained. That hardly makes it an amateurish invention, the work of some local Andy Hardy thinking, “Let’s go out to the barn and make a voting machine.”

Although, in this case, it just happens that the inventor actually is Andy Hardy. When Rouverol was a boy, his mother wrote a play titled Skidding , about a Judge Hardy and his family. She modeled the judge’s son, Andy, after her own son, and when the play was turned into the 1937 film A Family Affair , the part was played, for the first of many times, by Mickey Rooney.

William Rouverol, the all-American boy, is no less the all-American inventor. Asked by a reporter last November what he was working on now, his answer was curt and simple: “I’ll tell you when it’s patented.”