Historical Highlights

The First Electronic Vote

January 23, 1973
The First Electronic Vote Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Before electronic voting, this hand-held counter was used by party leaders to keep track of important votes on the House Floor.
On this date, at the start of the 93rd Congress (1973–1975), the House held its first electronic vote. A part of the far-reaching reforms of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, electronic voting modernized the House Chamber. The first electronic vote was a 15-minute roll call vote of Members; prior to the electronic system, roll calls typically took, on average, 30 to 45 minutes. Some estimates projected the House would save more than 90 hours of work per year with the new voting system. With no legislation on the calendar for the day, Members anxiously awaited the roll call vote. When the quorum of 218 Members appeared on the new vote tally board, those in the House Chamber cheered. As time dwindled down to 10 seconds on the vote clock, Members chanted, “10…9…8…” and then erupted in cheers at zero. In all, 331 Members joined in the historic first electronic vote. When later questioned about the transition to electronic voting, Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma noted that most Members had no difficulty adjusting to the new system. A few, however, complained about their ID pictures on the new voting cards.

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Beginning in 1844, electronic technology fashioned an information transformation in Congress. The telegraph, telephone, radio, television, and computer revolutionized the way information was disseminated from the halls of the House of Representatives.

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