Outreach Project: Voting and Usability


After the US election in November 2000, the problems helped put usability into the headlines. Many members were interested in the question of how the usability of voting systems could be improved. Others saw an opportunity to use a well-known event to explain just what it is that we do. In June, we kicked off a joint project with SIGCHI on Voting and Usability as a way of keeping those interested in the topic informed. A new section of the UPA web site ( was created as an archive of links and general articles.

Since June, there has been some progress on legislation: the US House Science Committee approved HR2275, the Voting Technology Standards Act of 2001. This clears the way for a vote on this legislation in the full house. This bill calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to lead a commission to develop voluntary, performance-based standards - and to accredit independent, third-party testing and certification bodies - to ensure the usability, accuracy, integrity, and security of voting products. (For more information or to follow the progress of this bill, use the Library of Congress Thomas site ( to search for the bill).

UPA and SIGCHI are not the only organizations interested in this issue:

  • The American Political Science Association, American Psychological Association and the Consortium of Social Science Associations sponsored a Congressional Briefing on "The Mechanics Of Election Reform: From Registration To Results" which led to an APA representative testifying at a hearing on Technology and the Voting Process

  • The AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) started a volunteer effort to improve ballot design in a local election in Chicago.

  • The National Organization on Disability has good resources on the accessibility of various voting systems.

Committees have also been busy. Several commissions and task forces have released reports. Links are listed on the UPA web site as we find out about them.

The Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project issued a report, "Voting - What Is, What Could Be" which includes an excellent summary of the current issues in voting systems and recommendations for improvements to the whole process, from registration to tabulation.

If you are interested, you can:

  • Help us collect any news items or web links on voting systems around the world.
  • US citizens can write to their representatives and express their concern about usability as a part of voting standards. A sample letter and links to congressional addresses are on the web site.
  • Get involved with your local elections board or other authorities. If you know of any local projects which might be of interest to members, let us know and we'll post the information.
  • Write an article or make a speech. Local papers may be interested in a short article. Because the events in Florida had such high visibility, talking about the usability issues in the election can be a good way to explain basic usability principles (especially to US audiences).

Send any links or information to for posting on the web site.

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