1970: Can votes be counted with a computer?
The possibility of using computers to count the votes of the Swiss population had been in discussion for some time before a large-scale experiment took place in a district of canton Zurich on February 1, 1970, with the help of the IBM Computer System/360.
Although the Zurich city council had been operating small computers since 1965, the use of computers in administration was still in its infancy – and was highly controversial when it came to voting.
Few media reports exist on the experiment, but it is known that for the vote on February 1, 1970 a ballot paper was developed which wasn't to be answered with a handwritten yes or no, but with a cross in the correct place. This particular vote was on the construction of a local hospital, money for school trips and road extension in Zurich.
Voters were assured that ballots would first be counted by hand and then used by the computer as a test.
The following day, the headline in the local Zurich newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger, was that the trying out of new ballots had been a success. The reporter had observed that people had filled out the form correctly; what the reporter did not mention was whether the computer had counted the votes correctly. The mystery remains!
In the series #swisshistorypicsExternal link link we look back to the past and show pictures from Swiss art and culture.
Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at email@example.com.