Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tab Cards Took A Bum Rap In Florida Election And Still Are The Best Method For Voting

We had the following published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, during the recount of the tab cards votes in Florida:

.....Having a background in tab cards, I find it befuddling as to how this vote-counting mess can keep going on in Florida.

Tab cards are made of paper that is ever-changing depending on its surroundings. Tab cards - particularly perforated ones- were designed and made for machine processing. Their life span of accuracy is limited, especially considering how they've been handled so far in Florida. I guarantee that every manual recount will have a different result. ( If you took a deck of tab cards and slapped them on the side of a desk, you would have a different result, almost every time you did it. )

I can't believe, based on what I see on TV, that anyone can trust any outcome after the way these cards have been counted, stacked and rearranged. After all this manipulation, the cards are damaged goods. Even paper and stock card manufacturers would have a difficult time determining voter intent. Even if those who have handled the recount so far were replaced by impartial laymen in the court system, not much more objectitve reality will be reached as to who voted for whom.

Someone should call in experts if these legal maneuvers continue. In any other court situations, we always have the evidence tested for its validity. In Florida, it somehow was automatically assumed that the holes and chads will tell the story no matter where, when and how the tab cards were manipulated. Only God now knows the real count after the way the cards were manually handled.

( Written during the Florida recount in Dec. 2000.)

( It a sad commentary that this process was used to verify the election and even more sad that a data processing tool that was used for many years by major corporations by the millions during the most prosperous time in our history was foolishly rejected. Tab cards remain the best inexpensive method for voting but simple procedures must be followed. )

The tab punched card still remains the best way for voting. The card itself is a unit record. It is a physical hard record based on a manual punching of a card. For many years, companies ran their businesses with tab cards. However, all data was considered to be "raw data" until the data was verified in a separate pass. The tab card was called a unit record because the data on it was physically limited to the individual card. In any other electronic processing this is not case. Bits and bytes are only electronic pulses in a flow of a records. They can be a very long one based on arbitrary choices. Data or pulses can be changed at any time at will or by accident.

With the old tab card system, most of all data was verified. This should have been the case with the tab card voting machines. Tab cards were designed to be a machine run processes and not handled manually. Perforated cards that were hand punched were manually handled but after the fact, the rest of the operations were run by machines. In storage of any length of time, the cards were compressed because card stock is subject to the environment in many ways.

The only thing missing from the manual card voting systems was a verification pass. This could be a simple efficient inexpenvise step. The voter would punch out the holes beside their selection as they always have and then view a simple display - it could be video screen or even something simpler. The voter would then view their selections on the display and then press a verification button that everthing is OK. There would then be two records of the event - the card itself and the verified information in a simple computer fashion. The votes could then be tallied in batch mode with each batch having its own record. It could then go to a larger computer to process all the data but still have the original voting records in tact from the separate procedure, if there are any questions.

In the Florida voting problems, nothing was for sure once the cards were manually counted. Stock cards are paper products and paper is a dynamic element subject to its surrounding. For example, the cards only in boxes, that were transported in hot trucks in the Florida sun, were subject to many things. The cards could warp and popped the chads in an automatic response to the heat. Moisture also affects stock cards and could cause a horizontal or vertical bending of the card automatically. That is why it was nonsensical to watch all those people on TV checking the cards by hand. The data was still raw without any verfication process to back up the original voting selection. With all the manual handling only God really knew what was the original situation. With a simple second verification process, none of this would have been needed and the hard copy only had to compare with the verification after the fact with the clicking of the verification button on a simple display being the result of the individual voter action.

Compare this with a touch screen sophisticated computer devices. Bits and bytes of data are dynamic subject to changes at any time. The simple dynamics of card stock is easy to control. Electronic pulses are not.

For more real world information see Tapart News and Art that Talks at and view the editorial art featured at Tapart News in one place at

The author was a National Accounts Manager for several major corporations which used millions of tab cards for all kinds of processing for many years. He worked out of a tab card manufacturing plant. Similar tab perforated cards as used with voting machines were used for many applications including inventory control and for re-ordering from end user locations. "KISS" prinicple was followed - meaning Keep It Simple Stupid...... Some of the same information was published in a top newspaper story in about 2000. Email contact at or go to