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Florida's Infamous Voting Machines Sold By Collector

Dec 12, 2011
Originally published on December 12, 2011 7:59 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have an additional bit of Supreme Court history that could be yours for the holidays. It was on this day in 2000 when the high court delivered its ruling in Bush vs. Gore. You will recall the justices stepped in to resolve an election crisis that largely originated in Florida. There, punch-card voting machines and all manner of chads - hanging, pregnant, dimpled - had left the election in the balance. A collector eventually scooped up more than 1,000 voting machines from Palm Beach County, the heart of the crisis. Jim Dobyns sold most of them over the years.

JIM DOBYNS: There were, I think, at most about 4,500 total Palm Beach County voting machines. You know, we've sold them all down to the final six. I'm going to keep one of them, so we've got five.

INSKEEP: Dobyns used to sell these voting machines for $99. Now, as the supply dwindles, they're going for 250 bucks.

DOBYNS: About 90 percent of the voting machines that people have bought over the years, a lot of times I don't really - I don't ask people's political persuasion, but about 90 percent have gone to Democrats.

ADRIENNE HELM: My name is Adrienne Helm. I'm a lifelong Democrat and the voting machine is in the family room up against a picture wall, and we are delighted to have it as part of our political memorabilia.

INSKEEP: Adrienne Helm's family purchased one of the punch-card voting machines shortly after the 2000 election crisis. It is, of course, a reminder that her candidate did not win, but she says it's also a reminder of an older and, she believes, purer form of voting. She does not trust newer electronic machines that she says can be manipulated.

HELM: I believe that the more ways that we make it easy for people to be involved in the democratic process and allow them to have confidence that their votes really matter and will be counted accurately, the better it is for our whole culture and society.

INSKEEP: By the way, Palm Beach County votes were problematic again one year ago, despite changes to the way votes are cast. It took the country longer than others to post totals during Florida's close governor's race. Officials are trying to work out the kinks before next November, the presidential election. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.