DG.O 2004: Studying eVoting


Paul Herrnson discusses eVoting

Paul Herrnson, from the University of Maryland is speaking on his research into eVoting machines. Paul's work is interesting to me because he is evaluating actual voting machines. In order to get access, he's been pretty careful about his participation in eVoting debates.

Electronic voting prevents invalid ballots and provides instant election results. There are also disadvantages: digital divide issues, power failures, and trustworthiness. The most knowledgeable people are the least suspicious.

Do we want a paper record? It improves voter confidence, but adds cost and complexity. There are also accessibility issues with paper ballots.

There are ballot design variations. One theme is to organize the ballot by office. Another theme is to organize it by party row. There are also straight party mechanisms in some ballots.

The research objective was to develop general principals from laboratory test, field test, and natural experiments. They used three types of test: expert review, usability tests, and natural experiments.

Experts looked at the quality of ballots, instructions, help commands, ease of navigation, feedback on under and over voting, ease of inserting voting cards, and the adequacy of review mechanisms.

In usability tests, users try the machines while being video taped and talking aloud about their intentions. These are reviewed and compared with the actual results and users are also interviewed about their reaction.

In field test, users are timed reading the instructions, and their responses to voting machine actions are noted. A post-voting questionnaire is also given to some voters.

Natural experiments are used to access impact of the new voter interfaces and procedures on spoiled ballots, residual votes, roll-off, split-tickets, and turnout. They also analyze the impact of variations in technology, ballot formats, and procedures among states.

The anticipated accomplishments are comparative evaluations of voting machines, ballot designs, and combinations of machines and ballots. The study hopes to develop principals to guide the design of voting machines and ballot design.