Voting and Usability Projects:
How You can Participate
Voting and Usability Project
The UPA Voting and Usability project works to create a better elections
process by improving the usability of ballots and voting systems. You
can also read more about their efforts to put the user at the center of
voting system design by defining usability standards for voting systems
for the US government and internationally at the project
Collecting Sample Ballots
The sample ballot initiative
was defined at the UPA conference this June. The federal government has
never kept records of ballot design, making the task of defining standards
for better ballots more difficult.
"Sample ballots are the
key for creating a design baseline," said initiative coordinator
Josephine Scott. "We are asking every UPA member to send us a sample
of their primary and general, or any election ballots when they become
available." Spoiled ballots, actual voting ballots that an election
official marks as unusable, are also welcome.
The group plans to gather data
about each ballot, digitize them and make them available to the US Election
Assistance Commission and anyone working in the field, to help understand
the range of current ballot design and as a resource for future design
standards. It is expected that this information will be available for
researchers as well.
Send your ballot to:
UPA Ballot Initiative
47448 Pontiac Trail
Wixom, MI 48393
Ballots in any language, from any place are welcome. All types of samples,
including those for electronic voting, are encouraged. Please include
a note about the jurisdiction (for instance, city, township or county)
and the election the ballot.
as Consultants to Elections Officials
The Elections Assistance Commission
(EAC) just released guidelines on Best
Practices in Election Administration. They collected material from
around the country to help elections officials with the 2004 elections.
The complete document, includes links to many samples and other sites,
making a great tool for anyone interested in learning about elections.
In the “Ten Election
Management Tips”, the eighth is a recommendation to work with a
usability consultant and has a link to a list of people interested in
working with elections officials on ballot design and usability. The UPA
created this list at the request of the EAC.
Use the online form to sign
up on the Voting
The reference to UPA in the
Best Practices Guide reads:
Hire a Usability Consultant.
Creating more legible polling place signs, reader-friendly voter guides,
clear voting instructions, easy-to-use touch screens, and user-friendly
websites will make it easier for voters to participate, reduce voter
errors and build good will on the part of the voting public. Usability
consultants can help identify where such improvements can be made. Usability
consultants are professionals who specialize in making forms and computer
interfaces easier to use; they can make everything from the voter registration
application to the ballot to the DRE touch screen unit more voter-friendly.
To find a consultant, go to the website of the Usability Professional’s
Association. You can also find guidance on ballot design in the following
subsidiary pages of the UPA website: "Voting and Usability: Top
ten things to read" and "Voting and Usability Project."
Serving as a Poll Worker
The Election Assistance Commission
has put out a call for more poll workers to fill the many openings across
the US. The EAC Web site includes links to all US
state election directors. UPA president Whitney Quesenbery noted that
this is an ideal service for a UPA member who wants to understand the
election environment better.
"Working as an election
poll worker will help UPA members understand the complexity of the election
environment,” Quesenbery said. “Any attempt to promote usability
requires an understanding how this puzzle fits together. Serving as a
poll worker provides a great place to start.”
Most poll worker positions are
paid, although the hours can be long. Training is required. To apply,
contact your county or local clerk who administers elections for more
The Verified Voting Foundation
is organizing TechWatch, enlisting technology professionals in ensuring
election integrity. Volunteers who sign up with TechWatch will have the
opportunity to get trained and help out with observing and documenting:
- Logic & Accuracy Testing of voting technology by election officials
prior to Election Day
- Poll Watching on Election Day (assigned to a single polling place
or central election office)
- Election Incidents on Election Day (on dispatch from an Election Incident
Reporting system to polling places within a given county)
By applying technical expertise
to mind the polls, TechWatch volunteers can chronicle election problems
for follow-on litigation and policymaking in a way that most poll watchers
cannot. They are particularly interested in volunteers from Colorado,
Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Volunteer for TechWatch at http://www.verifiedvoting.org/techwatch/
Create New Voting System Standards
President Quesenbery has been
appointed to a committee that will assist the federal government in its
effort to define voting system and ballot design standards. The Technical
Guidelines Development Committee will serve as advisors to the EAC, which
has been mandated by Congress to develop these standards.
"I’m pleased to see
usability included in these guidelines," Quesenbery said. “Too
often, a focus on technology and security eclipses the importance of creating
voting systems that people can use easily.”
Quesenbery and Josephine Scott
are also working on the proposed IEEE Voting System Standards section
on usability and accessibility. This standard is about to go out for another
round of comments.
Maintaining an International
Project leader Louise Ferguson
manages an e-voting Yahoo! Group with an international focus, following
voting system technology and ballot design efforts throughout the world.
She is currently liaising with the UK Design Council and the UK Electoral
Commission to promote usable design in future systems.
Conducting a Multidisciplinary
At the UPA2004 conference,
the Voting and Usability Project sponsored a multi-disciplinary
workshop. Attendees included representatives from Design for Democracy,
social researchers, voting system designers and usability experts. Participants
looked at social, civic and methodology issues in ensuring the usability
of voting systems, from ballot design to the debate surrounding potential
benefits and abuses of electronic voting.