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Are design issues to blame for vote 'flipping' in touch-screen machines? (Computerworld)

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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-31-08 10:39 AM
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Are design issues to blame for vote 'flipping' in touch-screen machines? (Computerworld)
Vendors say no, but critics say e-voting devices aren't designed for most voters

By Todd R. Weiss

October 30, 2008 (Computerworld) Are some touch-screen voting machines really "flipping" votes from one candidate to another, or are the voters who claim their votes are being changed just wrong?

With the U.S elections just days away, some voters in some states, including West Virginia, Texas and Tennessee, have reported that electronic touch-screen voting machines are "flipping" their votes to another candidate on the screen.

When those allegations are made, e-voting hardware vendors and local election officials usually blame errant fingers, overhanging jewelry or clothing -- or they argue that the touch screens weren't properly calibrated. But continuing reports about flipping -- sporadic though they may be -- raise questions about the machines themselves, such as when they were designed and what kind of usability testing was done. (For more about e-voting technology, see our Voting technology 2008 page.)

Computerworld asked the four major e-voting machine vendors to talk about how their hardware was originally designed, with an emphasis on whether real-world user testing was done as the devices were being drawn up.
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more: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=...

Several links on that page as well.

As you might guess, the mfgrs are taking the line that "it's the user's fault". Evidently, we don't cut our nails as short as the design engineers would assume. :eyes:
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Wapsie B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-31-08 10:43 AM
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1. This should be meatball-level programming here.
It ain't rocket science here. They're merely tabulating votes. I'm sure some high school kid out there has written voter software for his/her Talented and Gifted project this semester.
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CrispyQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-31-08 10:56 AM
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2. Has there been even one report of the vote switching from repub to dem?
If not, why don't they address that issue?

Our county has one electronic voting machine in every precinct, but it is not touch screen. The voter has to use a dial to make their selection.
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parasim Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-31-08 11:00 AM
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3. Typical engineers... blame the user.
My guess is that they aren't employing any usability experts for these things.

I mean, you've got say, two buttons 5 pixels apart. So, the name of the candidate is at the top of the button, close to the top edge. That means the candidates name is within 10 pixels or so of the other button above it.

So, the user intends to select the candidate in the second button and will typically touch the candidates name, not the center of the button. Ok, so if the calibration is off by 10 pixels then the top button is selected.

Usability prinicples (such as Fitt's Law) would dictate that you should put the name of the candidate in the center of the button, so even if the calibration is slightly off, the intended candidate will be selected.

On top of the that, these machines could be fitted with high quailty touchscreens (like on the iPhone) that only activate if touched by skin, negating any extraneous things like jewelry, fingernails, etc. that could cause a wrong selection.

Basic stuff here.
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angstlessk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-31-08 11:22 AM
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4. see, thar's the problem..'usability EXPERTS' they need to park themselves outside a wal mart
on a saturday and test em there...the people will be dressed as they would to vote and a good cross section of the folks who will vote will be encountered...testing completed!!!
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