Survey Tracks Experiences with Electronic Voting
Tool also measures access to voter information
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a survey to measure the public's experiences and satisfaction with voting, particularly among those who use electronic voting machines.
The survey—being conducted online and through other means by investigators in Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA)—also measures how accessible voting information is to the public before an election.
"We've put out a new product for the voting public to use, electronic voting machines," said CATEA Associate Director Rob Bingham-Roy. "This year is the year the devices have been out in the field, so we're interested in what the public is actually experiencing when they encounter these devices, both in the disabled community and among John Q. Public."
Roy stresses that this is not a strictly scientific survey; the actual term for it is a self-selecting sampling technique. Its purpose is to measure user experiences in the field. The responses from the public will be used to shape future research proposals that study electronic voting machines and how they perform.
"We hope to take the responses, analyze the data, and then communicate the findings to the manufacturers, to Georgia's Secretary of State, and to others so that they can get a sense of what users are experiencing in the field," Roy said.
Mimi Kessler, project director for CATEA's Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC), said this survey identifies the barriers voters might encounter with an electronic voting machine and their overall satisfaction with voting and casting a ballot.
"We also want to know what barriers have been removed, particularly for people with disabilities," Kessler said. "Many of them have been looking forward to electronic voting, which would allow them to vote without assistance and with complete privacy for the first time in history."
"We are also interested in the accessibility of voter information available to the public prior to the election, which might help them make informed decisions," Kessler said.
She said that one impetus for the survey was the amount of public discussion on electronic voting, not only at the political level but also in the information technology community.
"There are real concerns about electronic voting machines and their usability, about the vulnerability of machines to hacking, and whether there is any kind of audit trail for votes cast," she said. "These concerns have merit, but we need to ensure that the progress made toward independent voting for people with disabilities does not take a step backward."
"Today, the manufacturers have gone to great lengths to test the machines, particularly among individuals with disabilities. Many of us wonder if this might be a brand-new day," she added. "So we just want to create an opportunity for everyone to have a place to put their comments, both positive and negative, about their voting experiences."
To participate in the survey, go to www.gatech.edu/votersurvey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and has four categories: voting, barriers to voting, satisfaction with voting experience and information about survey participants.
The survey is designed to measure a participant's experience since January 2004 and will collect information about all types of elections, including local, runoff, general and primaries. Voters who used electronic voting machines at any of these types of elections are encouraged to submit a user survey.
Additionally, users may take the survey by phone, or may request a paper copy of the survey, by contacting Research Associate Robert Roy, firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-894-1412. For TTY service, call the ITTATC project toll-free, 1-866-948-8282.