Voting Technology

Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot

Paul S. Herrnson
Richard G. Niemi
Michael J. Hanmer
Benjamin B. Bederson
Frederick G. Conrad
Michael W. Traugott
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 215
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  • Book Info
    Voting Technology
    Book Description:

    Voting difficulties hung over America's presidential election in 2000 like a dark cloud. Hanging chads, a butterfly ballot, and the Supreme Court remain the most vivid memories of that political donnybrook. Passage of 2002's Help America Vote Act sparked further interest in the physical process of casting a ballot, yet several recent contests still produced confusion at the polls. A solution to at least some of those problems may be found in new technology, but such innovations carry their own concerns and questions. Voting Technology is the first book to investigate in a scientific and authoritative manner how voters respond to the new equipment. The authors -an interdisciplinary group of experts in American elections, political behavior, human-computer interaction, and human factors psychology -assess five commercially available voting systems, each one representing a specific class based on shared design principles, as well as a prototype system not currently available. They evaluate the systems against different criteria (including ease of use, speed, and accuracy) using field experiments, laboratory experiments, and expert reviews. The results reveal the good and bad about the new systems, including specific features that contribute to clarity, confusion, or error. Going beyond the concern with spoiled ballots, they determine whether voters actually cast their ballots for the candidates they intended to support. They address fundamental questions of whether voters like and trust the equipment and whether the various systems are equally usable by all voters. Their research also opens up an entirely new line of inquiry by asking about the interaction between ballot format and voter behavior. The concluding chapter pulls together best practices that will guide manufacturers of voting systems, ballot designers, election officials, political observers, and of course, voters. In a political system based on free exercise of personal choice, the least we can do is make sure our choices are being accurately recorded and counted.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-3562-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. 1 The Study of Electronic Voting
    (pp. 1-17)

    The 2000 U.S. presidential election, especially in Florida, involved a set of circumstances that evolved into the perfect storm and exposed serious flaws in the American electoral system. The events surrounding the casting of the votes, their tabulation, and the recount came close to creating a constitutional crisis. The election was already unusual because the candidate who won the popular vote nationwide did not become president—only the fourth time this has happened in U.S. history.¹ Exacerbating this situation was the extremely tight presidential race in Florida along with the confusing and now infamous “butterfly ballot” used in Palm Beach...

  5. 2 A New Generation of Voting Systems
    (pp. 18-43)

    When they were first manufactured in the late 1890s, lever voting machines were state of the art, a modern innovation designed to eliminate the tedium of hand counting and to ensure the accuracy associated with the modern mechanical world. One hundred years later, in the era of high-speed computers, these big, green monsters seem almost as antiquated as hand counting itself. The idea that an 800-pound machine consisting of manually driven levers and gears is the best way to count ballots must strike many younger citizens, accustomed to cell phones and iPods, as a throwback to the Jurassic period. Voting...

  6. 3 Voter Reactions to Electronic Voting Systems
    (pp. 44-66)

    As with other twenty-first-century electronic devices and appliances, there are a lot of things to like about electronic voting systems. They are compact, which is a boon not only to workers who need to lug them from place to place but also to voters who may need accommodations for various disabilities. With color coding and carefully selected fonts, they can be easy to read. These systems also can readily handle long ballots via multiple screens. Because they are computers, they can be programmed to do a variety of things that makers of lever machines or punch card systems never dreamed...

  7. 4 The Accuracy of Electronic Voting Systems
    (pp. 67-90)

    One of the great promises of direct recording electronic voting systems is that they would eliminate the problems associated with the 2000 presidential election. Hanging, dimpled, or pregnant, chads would be a thing of the past. Partially completed arrows, lightly filled in or improperly marked ovals and circles, and various stray marks on paper ballots would no longer cause confusion. Overvotes would never happen. To this extent, the new systems seem to have worked: a national nonpartisan organization that keeps track of such things reported that the new systems very nearly eliminated spoiled ballots in 2004.¹

    Of course not all...

  8. 5 Inequality in the Voting Booth
    (pp. 91-110)

    A fundamental feature of elections in modern democracies is that the right to vote is guaranteed to a very broad electorate—indeed, to nearly all adult citizens. There are no restrictions by education, wealth, language skills, or disability.¹ One does not have to be interested in or knowledgeable about politics. One does not need to be literate, and one certainly does not need to be computer literate. This open-to-all feature of the voting process is critical. It makes it inappropriate to design and put into service a voting system that is usable only by the highly interested or even by...

  9. 6 Vote Verification Systems
    (pp. 111-136)

    As direct recording electronic voting systems became widespread after the 2000 election, apprehensions about their security also spread rapidly among some computer scientists, political activists, politicians, and others. The major concern is that electronic voting systems can be hacked, that is, reprogrammed in ways that could undermine the integrity of the vote count and change the outcome of an election.¹ Although there is no evidence that such an occurrence happened, including in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, it is certainly possible that some individual or group would try to steal an election. Altered paper ballots and stuffed or stolen...

  10. 7 Toward More User-Friendly Voting and Election Systems
    (pp. 137-152)

    Just as the presidential election of 2000 focused the attention of politicians, political activists, the media, and ordinary citizens on many of the shortcomings associated with how Americans vote, the 2006 congressional election in Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District serves as a reminder that some of these shortcomings still have not been adequately addressed. More than 8 percent of the approximately 240,000 ballots cast in that election in Sarasota County were missing votes for a congressional candidate—many times more than the expected rate.¹ The absence of more than 18,000 votes was the cause of much alarm given that the election...

  11. APPENDIX A Voter Information Guides and Questionnaires
    (pp. 153-170)
  12. APPENDIX B Characteristics of Respondents in the Field Studies
    (pp. 171-172)
  13. APPENDIX C Regression Results for Chapters 5 and 6
    (pp. 173-186)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 187-208)
  15. Authors
    (pp. 209-210)
  16. Index
    (pp. 211-216)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-217)