The outcome of the 2000 presidential election will be remembered as the closest contest in U.S. history. The closeness of the race brought the entire voting process under national scrutiny, with politicians, lawyers, and the media trying to understand the factors that contribute to an accurate and fair election.
Adding to the drama were concerns over the design of the ballot used in Palm Beach County, Florida. Some voters complained that the ballot was confusing and caused them to vote for the wrong candidate. Others claimed that the ballot was unambiguous.
Although human factors issues behind the voting process are just now receiving national attention, they are not new. In 1980, HFES member Keith Hansen chaired a session at an HFES annual meeting that addressed a wide range of psychological and ergonomics issues surrounding the voting process. [See Keith’s recent perspective on pages 4–5.] In his April 2000 HFES Bulletin
article, Past HFES President Peter Hancock raised the need for human factors involvement in voting issues.
Given the recent prominence of this issue, the Technical Program Committee will hold a special session at the 2001 Annual Meeting aimed at improving the voting process. Proposals are sought which address the current problems with ballots, voting apparatus designs, and/or the voting process and also demonstrate human factors solutions to these problems. Proposals are invited
from academic and industrial organizations, and we strongly encourage students to submit proposals. The most promising solutions will be presented at the annual meeting. Specific details regarding this special session will be appear in the Call for Proposals (to be mailed in early January 2001).