The invention of a practical voting machine was the preoccupation of reformers in the late 19th century. The operating features of these gear-and-lever machines followed contemporary trends in ballot design, notably the tabular layout of the blanket ballot and the private curtained booth. State and local government officials justified investments in voting machines by noting the increasing length and complexity of ballots with multiple candidates and referenda, and, in the 1920s, the doubling of electorates with the enfranchisement of women.
This voting machine was patented by inventor Alfred J. Gillespie and manufactured by the Standard Voting Machine Company of Rochester, NY, in the late 1890s. It was the first to use a voter-activated mechanism that drew a privacy curtain around the voter and simultaneously unlocked the machine’s levers for voting.