Friday, August 25, 2006

Legislators Want Voice in Selecting Voting Machines

Legislators in Albany County have asked that their opinions be considered when the Albany County Election Commissioners (who, like county election commissioners around the state will have final say as to what new electronic voting machines are selected for their county) choose new voting machines.

Certainly, we agree with the sentiment that the public should be involved in this process. As we've been mentioning over and over again on this blog, we've already issued a security analysis of the most commonly purchased electronic voting machines, and we've got three more reports coming in the next few weeks: looking at the usability, accessibility and cost of new systems (usability should be out early next week).

Here are some suggestions we have for the commissioners:

Perform extensive usability tests before purchasing machines: this means letting actual members of the public vote on the machines and gauging both their reaction to the machines (did they like them? Did they find them confusing? Were the confident that their votes were recorded accurately? did it take them a long time to complete their ballots?) and whether they made any errors while they voted (we found the correlation between liking a machine and voting error free is not necessarily related -- some voters are confused by the machines and make errors, but don't realize it).

Perform extensive accessibility tests before purchasing the machines: ask the elderly and disabled in your county to use the machines you are thinking about buying. Observe the entire voting process from approaching the voting machine, to making selections, to casting the final vote. And consider how easily people with multiple disabilities (e.g., citizen with both sight and manual dexterity problems) can vote on these machines.

Categories: General, Voting

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