Improving Voting Systems

Keywords Improving Voting Systems HFES Bulletin Human Factors and Ergonomics in Design HF/E Challenges
Standards groups

Over the years, the technology used in the voting process has changed quite a bit, and today a wide range of technologies are employed, including paper ballots, punch cards, mechanical lever machines, and optical scanning
devices. More recently, computer-based voting machines, called direct recording electronic (DRE) devices, have been introduced. The U.S. national election of 2000 spotlighted potential problems voters might have in accurately indicating their selections on the various voting devices. The human factors issues associated with the butterfly ballot used in Florida’s Palm Beach County captured international attention.

In part as a response to these issues, the Help America Vote Act of 2002
(H.R.3295) was recently passed and will significantly change the voting technology used in many areas of the United States (see
Among other things, it will provide funds to replace older technology
with new technology: mainly optical scan and DRE technology. However, voting system usability issues were again highlighted during primary elections in Florida when voting equipment employing advanced technology was used. Thus, as we enter an era in which voting technology will rapidly change, it will be important to address the human factors aspects of these devices in order to
ensure that they are easy to use and as error free as possible. In this article, I describe some of the issues and the development of a new standard in which HFES is participating that, it is hoped, will help to ensure that technology-based voting systems operate as intended.

Document identifier
Volume 45 Number 11
Date published
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Defines standard
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John M. O’Hara
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