• Journal Article

Electronic voting eliminates hanging chads but introduces new usability challenges


Conrad, F. G., Bederson, B. B., Lewis, B., Peytcheva, E., Traugott, M. W., Hanmer, M. J., ... Niemi, R. G. (2009). Electronic voting eliminates hanging chads but introduces new usability challenges. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 67(1), 111-124. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2008.09.010


The arrival of electronic voting has generated considerable controversy, mostly about its vulnerability to fraud. By comparison, virtually no attention has been given to its usability, i.e., voters’ ability to vote as they intend, which was central to the controversy surrounding the 2000 US presidential election. Yet it is hard to imagine a domain of human–computer interaction where usability has more impact on how democracy works. This article reports a laboratory investigation of the usability of six electronic voting systems chosen to represent the features of systems in current use and potentially in future use. The primary question was whether e-voting systems are sufficiently hard to use that voting accuracy and satisfaction are compromised. We observed that voters often seemed quite lost taking far more than the required number of actions to cast individual votes, especially when they ultimately voted inaccurately. Their satisfaction went down as their effort went up. And accuracy with some systems was disturbingly low. While many of these problems are easy to fix, manufacturers will need to adopt usability engineering practices that have vastly improved user interfaces throughout the software industry.