Around the Nation

Florida's Infamous Voting Machines Sold By Collector

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

On the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court Bush v. Gore decision, Steve Inskeep reports that collectors have bought up those punch-card voting machines that caused the hanging chad confusion of the 2000 election. Jim Dobyns bought 4,500 machines in Palm Beach County and has sold nearly all of them.


We have an additional bit of Supreme Court history that could be yours for the holidays. It was on this day in 2000 when the high court delivered its ruling in Bush vs. Gore. You will recall the justices stepped in to resolve an election crisis that largely originated in Florida. There, punch-card voting machines and all manner of chads - hanging, pregnant, dimpled - had left the election in the balance. A collector eventually scooped up more than 1,000 voting machines from Palm Beach County, the heart of the crisis. Jim Dobyns sold most of them over the years.

JIM DOBYNS: There were, I think, at most about 4,500 total Palm Beach County voting machines. You know, we've sold them all down to the final six. I'm going to keep one of them, so we've got five.

INSKEEP: Dobyns used to sell these voting machines for $99. Now, as the supply dwindles, they're going for 250 bucks.

DOBYNS: About 90 percent of the voting machines that people have bought over the years, a lot of times I don't really - I don't ask people's political persuasion, but about 90 percent have gone to Democrats.

ADRIENNE HELM: My name is Adrienne Helm. I'm a lifelong Democrat and the voting machine is in the family room up against a picture wall, and we are delighted to have it as part of our political memorabilia.

INSKEEP: Adrienne Helm's family purchased one of the punch-card voting machines shortly after the 2000 election crisis. It is, of course, a reminder that her candidate did not win, but she says it's also a reminder of an older and, she believes, purer form of voting. She does not trust newer electronic machines that she says can be manipulated.

HELM: I believe that the more ways that we make it easy for people to be involved in the democratic process and allow them to have confidence that their votes really matter and will be counted accurately, the better it is for our whole culture and society.

INSKEEP: By the way, Palm Beach County votes were problematic again one year ago, despite changes to the way votes are cast. It took the country longer than others to post totals during Florida's close governor's race. Officials are trying to work out the kinks before next November, the presidential election.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from