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Election tech: How crisis and change shaped every tool we use to vote


An early electronic voting machine made by Shouptronic (left), which mimicked the mechanical Standard voting machine. Voting tools have changed in the US to accommodate growing population, war and other crises.

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Soldiers in the Civil War used the latest advancements in military technology. The repeating rifle and improved bullets made it possible to launch deadlier attacks from farther away than before. Early submarines tested the waters of undersea warfare. The telegraph allowed President Abraham Lincoln to communicate with officers in the field. 

The advances weren't limited to battle. During the 1864 presidential election, Union soldiers relied on two of the most significant developments in American voting: paper ballots and absentee voting. At polling stations in military camps, soldiers from more than a dozen states cast pre-printed tickets that listed candidates from one ...


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