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!
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