Introduced by Representative Charles Bennett of Florida on June 21, 1949, H. Res. 261 was not the first, or the last, piece of legislation the Congressman authored to install an automatic counting and visual recording system in the House of Representatives. A staunch advocate for the modernization of the voting process, Bennett later introduced two other bills (H.R. 988 in 1953 and H.R. 397 in 1969) calling for the use of visual recording and automatic counting systems to tally yeas, nays, and quorum calls. Although Bennett’s bills did not directly lead to the institution of an electronic voting system, his enthusiasm caught the attention of an unidentified person, who wrote the word “Television” in the lower right corner of this copy of the bill.
Bennett may have been one of the most persistent, but he was not the first to propose the use of an automatic or electronic voting system. In 1848, inventor Francis H. Smith wrote to the House with his design of a telegraph to automatically tally yeas and nays. Thomas Edison designed an electric voting system in 1869, and 50 subsequent bills and resolutions were introduced to implement some form of automated voting system. It was not until the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 that an electronic voting system was finally adopted by the House. The first electronic vote was held on January 23, 1973.