Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Lomo Scanner' Counts Votes the Modern Way

It's efficient, accurate and easy to use. But even the creator of the "Lomo scanner" concedes Russia may just not be ready for a computerized voting system.


Ilya Klebanov proudly displayed his achievement Tuesday at the Informatika-96 convention at Moscow's Exposition Center. "We've developed about a thousand of these machines since June of 1995," he said. "They are priceless."


Klebanov is head of Lomo, a St. Petersburg factory specializing in primitive, Soviet-era cameras that have recently become the rage in Europe. He was approached last year by President Boris Yeltsin, who asked him to develop a computerized voting system for Russia.


The result, the "Lomo scanner," looks like an ATM machine. It swallows ballots whole, then records the voter's choice. If a novice inserts the ballot the wrong way, Lomo spits it out.


Klebanov insists the machines are almost impossible to tamper with, and Lomos have been employed in six recent elections, including both rounds of this summer's presidential vote. But in each case, the ballots were re-counted by hand. "Russian voting officials don't seem to trust it," Klebanov explained.


Lomo's contribution is one part of a series of steps being taken by the Central Election Committee to modernize ballot tabulation.


A computerized web has already been established that sends data from Russia's 95,000 polling stations to Moscow by the Internet rather than by train, as was done as recently as the 1993 State Duma elections.








"People have really taken to it," Klebanov said. "They are attracted by the red and green lights. It's a joy to use."


, officials are simply not comfortable with the new technology.


"In 1993 it took us a good two weeks to count all the votes," said CEC deputy chairman Alexander Ivanchenko. "In 1995 that number was down to 12 hours."


But in order for Lomo to be plugged into the computer web, the issue must go before the Duma, where resentment toward a computerized vote counter -- which many in the opposition think can be manipulated by the government -- is still high.


Klebanov, however, is optimistic.


"I'm waiting for the next elections," he said.