Usability in Civic Life: Voting and Usability

Other News Sources

This non-profit group has a page on the recall with links to information and news.

Rough & Tumble
A "daily snapshot of California news

Political Humor from About.com


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The 2003 California Recall Election

Once again an election is in the news, and once again there are possible usability issues surrounding the ballot. This time, the election is in California to vote on recalling the current Governor and, if the recall is successful to vote on his replacement. The election is scheduled for October 7, 2003

Some of the issues surrounding this election:

  • Most California precincts have purchased new voting systems, but were not planning to have them in operation before the primaries in the summer of 2004. This leaves them stuck between discarded punch card systems and new electronic systems still in their boxes.
  • There are as many as 135 names on the ballot, making it a significant design challenge. The punch cards can handle 50 names per page. Paper ballots will be slow and expensive to count.
  • The ballot is in two parts: voters must first vote for or against the recall and then for a replacement. Many (incorrect) sources are saying that you must vote "yes" for the recall to be able to vote for a replacement.

Information about the Election

News Coverage

As we find news about the election that touches on usability issues, we will post these articles here.

California Recall Election Delayed
A federal appeals court postponed California's Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election, ruling Monday that the historic vote cannot proceed because some votes would be cast using outmoded punch-card ballot machines. (Washington Post/AP, September 15, 2003

A Wild Card, and It Isn't Schwarzenegger
Millions of voters will be voting on punch cards, those of pimpled, dimpled chad fame so discredited by Florida in 2000. The article includes a link to a map of the state showing what kind of voting machines each county will use. (NY Times, August 8, 2003)

Relevant Research

One of the design issues in this election is the impact of candidate order on an election.

Electronic Voting System Usability Issues , a white paper from the University of Maryland Center for American Politics and Citizenship lists several articles in its bibliography that relate to this issue:

  • Bain, H. M., & Hecock, D. S. (1957). Ballot Position and Voters Choice . Detroit: Wayne State University Press
  • Krosnick, J. A., Miller, J. M., & Tichy, M. P. (in press). An Unrecognized Need for Ballot Reform: The Effects of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Walker, J. L. (1996). Ballot Forms and Voter Fatigue: An Analysis of the Office Block and Party Column Ballots. Midwest Journal of Political Science, 10 , pp. 448-463.
  • Miller, J. M., & Krosnick, J. A. (1998). The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 62 , pp. 291-330.


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