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The technology used to cast and count votes is one essential part of the multifaceted U.S. election process. In the United States today, votes are cast, and in some instances counted, by electronic voting methods: optical scan, direct recording electronic, ballot marking device, and vote-by-phone. In addition, some jurisdictions use election management systems to integrate vote casting and tabulating functions for a given election with other election management functions.
Before voting equipment can be used in any given election to perform these functions, it must be programmed to accommodate the specific characteristics of that election, including preparing a ballot that is unique to that election and, depending on the voting equipment, programming the equipment to present the ballot to the voter and read the ballot as voted.
Software then downloads the election-specific ballot configuration through the use of memory cartridges or other media to produce either a digital or paper ballot that lists the names of the candidates and the issues to be voted on. On or before Election Day, voters record their choices. Some ballots may include a space for write-in choices. When voters have finished marking their ballot selections, how the ballot is cast and counted varies by voting method.