Usability in Civic Life: Voting and Usability
UK and e-Voting
Government, Public Bodies and Related Organisations
Responsibility for elections and voting is divided between several government departments.
- Department for Constitutional Affairs - Overall responsibility for elections in the UK
- Office of the Deputy Prime Minister - Responsible for policy for, and conduct of, local, mayoral and regional elections, and the electoral modernisation pilot programme.
- The Electoral Commission - an independent body set up by and reporting to Parliament, addressing a wide range of issues concerning elections.
- Association of Electoral Administrators - Research on voting systems and ballot design
Elections in the UK are governed by a range of legislation including Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments.
- The best place to find the text of UK legislation, including Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments, is The Stationery Office’s website.
- To discover the progress of proposed legislation in Parliament, consult Parliamentary proceedings in Hansard. A more usable version of Hansard can be found at TheyWorkForYou.
- General Legislation relevant to elections, including the Representation of the Peoples Acts, can be found on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website.
- Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA 1995)
- DDA Code of Practice: Rights of Access – Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises
Design and Usability of Ballots and Voting Systems
- Implementation of Electronic Voting in the UK Technical Options Report By Ben Fairweather and Simon Rogerson. Commissioned by the ODPM, this report from a group of UK academics has some coverage of usability and accessibility.
- Review of Ballot Paper Design: Consultation Paper (January 2003) (pdf).
- Response of CCSR, De Montfort University, to ‘Review of Ballot Paper Design’ consultation
- Ballot Paper Design: Report and Recommendations - Final report and recommendations for ballot paper design in UK elections, from the Electoral Commission.
Standards and Guidelines
- Disability Access Standards for the Electoral Modernisation Pilot Projects - Access standards for e-voting and e-counting technology Version 1, November 2002 (pdf)
- Polls Apart Polling Station Checklist - A document for electoral administrators and returning officers who want to ensure polling stations are accessible to disabled voters.
- Polls Apart - reports on accessibility
- The ‘X’ Factor (pdf) By Louise Ferguson In the Design Council report Touching the State (October 2004), pp48-50. The usability, accessibility and design of both traditional and newer voting technologies, and the need for human-centred design approaches.
Voting Modernisation Pilots
Since 2000, the UK has conducted several pilot projects testing different approaches to voting modernization. These have included all-postal voting, digital television, telephone/SMS voting, all conducted in specific jurisdictions. These reports describe, evaluate and respond to these pilots.
- In the Service of Democracy: A consultation paper on a policy for electronic democracy
- Two more regions for all-postal voting trial. This report from the UK Department for Constitutional Affairs followed the Electoral Commission Report and includes their decision not to proceed with e-voting trials. (January 21, 2004)
- Response to the ‘In the Service of Democracy’ consultation, from CCSR, De Montfort University
- Implementing Electronic Voting in the UK (ODPM)
- Implementing electronic voting in the UK: The legal issues (ODPM)
- Technical options report (ODPM)
- Elections in the 21st Century: From paper ballot to e-voting (pdf) - Authored by an independent commission on alternative voting methods, sponsored by the Electoral Reform Society.
- Electoral Modernisation Pilots Statement of Requirements (pdf) - Issued by the ODPM in 2002.
- Modernising Elections: A strategic evaluation of the 2002 electoral pilot schemes (pdf) - A review of the 2002 pilots published by the Electoral Commission.
- Piloting Alternative Voting Methods in the 2003 Local Elections in England - A report by the Electoral Reform Society
- The Shape of Elections to Come - A review of the May 2003 pilots across the UK, published by the Electoral Commission.
- The Government’s Response to the Electoral Commission’s Report: The Shape of Elections to Come – A Strategic Evaluation of the 2003 Electoral Pilot Schemes (September 2003) (pdf)
- The Electoral Commission's response to the Government consultation paper on Pilots in 2004 (November 2003) (pdf)
- Electoral Pilots at the June 2004 Elections (pdf) - The Electoral Commission’s recommendations to government (December 2003). Recommends not conducting e-voting pilots for the 2004 local and European elections, owing to increased complexity of proposed regional pilots and tight timescales.
- Delivering Democracy - Report from the Electoral Commission on the all-postal pilots held in 2004.
- Polls Apart accessibility reports - Reports covering all the electoral modernisation pilots held since 2000.
- E-voting: Policy and Practice - A report on an e-voting panel jointly organised by New Media Knowledge and the Institute for Public Policy Research.
- E-voting Security Study, commissioned from CESG by the Office of the E-Envoy (pdf)
- Response of CCSR, De Montfort University, to the CESG e-voting security study
- At Cross Purposes - A piece by Prof. Simon Rogerson and Dr Ben Fairweather, originally published as ETHIcol in the IMIS Journal Volume 12 No 3 (June 2002)
- Voter-verifiable e-voting: European press release and resolution
UK publication Open Democracy is currently running a series on voting technology issues:
- What happens when we vote? by Siva Vaidhyanathan (Open Democracy, 5 October 2004)
US academic Vaidhyanathan takes an international view of voting and technology.
- Democracy needs good design by Louise Ferguson (Open Democracy, 19 October 2004)
Article considering design, usability and accessibility of voting technology, old and new.
- The touchscreen future by Daniel Tokaji (Open Democracy, 21 October 2004)
- Tokaji is a US academic who advocates the use of touch screen technology as a response to technical problems with older technologies used in the US.
- What’s wrong with electronic voting machines? by Bruce Schneier (Open Democracy, 9 November 2004)
On problems with ‘DRE’ electronic voting machines.
Other news stories about elections:
- Watchdog rejects all-postal votes (BBC News, 27 August 2004)
Covers the 2004 UK all-postal pilots and their problems.
- Demand for probe into postal ballot vote-rigging by Gaby Hinsliff (The Guardian, 27 June 2004)
'We think that these papers have got into the hands of people who have "volunteered" to fill them out for the voter'.
- Postal ballot 'cost candidate seat in Europe’ By Peter Hetherington and David Ward (The Guardian, 16 June 2004)
Includes quotes form news broadcaster Job Snow, and several MPs, about the difficulty of using the ballots in the 2004 elections
- 500,000 votes not counted (Evening Standard, 15 June 2004)
This is a somewhat inflated account of the problems in London. As undervotes are counted in with invalid votes - according to the London Elects press office - in the present statistics gathering exercise (as they were in 2000 also), we cannot know how serious the invalid vote problem is in London. But it's likely that the majority of these votes were perfectly valid undervotes (i.e. a vote was only cast for the first choice candidate).
- Voting made complicated by Catherine Bennett (The Guardian, 3 June 2004)
Catherine Bennett takes a look at the voting literature provided to London voters in the 2004 elections.
- Confusion reigns on 'Super Thursday' by Peter Hetherington (The Guardian, 2 June 2004)
Considers the processes involved in all-postal voting.
- UK gov planning switch to e-voting for 2007? by John Lettice (The Register, 11 May 2004)
- Labour push for 'Pop Idol' text vote (The Sunday Times, 9 May 2004)
While the Electoral Commission found text message voting to be of “limited value”, The Times reports that Whitehall sees e-voting as a “key measure to tackle so-called disengagement among young people”.
- Voting against internet elections by Michael Cross (The Guardian, 12 February 2004)
Michael Cross looks at the lessons of the SERVE security study for the UK.
- Hackers Threaten to Short-Circuit E-Voting Plans - By David Rowan (originally published in The Times, 15 November 2003)
On the lessons of US e-voting problems for the UK.
- Does the UK need e-voting? (eGov Monitor, 4 August 2003)
Views about e-voting from a range of UK figures.
- UK e-voting pilots deeply flawed by John Leyden (The Register, 31 July 2003)
Leyden reports on e-voting research from Dr Ben Fairweather of De Montfort University, which includes some usability concerns.
- Fraud potential found in e-voting systems by Thomas C Greene (The Register, 26 July 2002)
A report on US experience.
- Why e-voting is a bad idea by Bill Thompson (BBC, 19 July 2003)
Bill Thompson questions the contents of the Government’s Green Paper, In The Service of Democracy, and in particular its e-voting proposals.
- Consultancy pins e-voting hopes on UK by Michael Cross (Guardian, 10 July 2003)
- Comment: Experimental e-voting leaves nasty aftertaste by Lem Bingley (IT Week, 31 May 2003)
An article looking at a UK government report, The Implementation of Electronic Voting in the UK.
- Partial e-voting only by Julie Howell (RNIB) (The Source public management journal, 7 May 2003)
Howell criticises the accessibility of UK voting pilots.
- Why I'll boycott e-voting in the May elections by Munir Kotadia (ZDNet, 28 April 2003)
According to Kotadia, e-voting will take away all the fun of elections.
- Cross culture by Simon Parker (Guardian, 30 April 2003)
Parker looks at some of the details of the 2003 voting pilots.
- E-voting 'would increase turnout' (Guardian, 24 April 2003)
An agency's report on a voting survey among electors.
- E-vote early, e-vote often? by Matthew Tempest and Martin Nicholls (Guardian, 17 April 2003)
Covers the launch of the 2003 voting pilots.
- Digital TV to play e-voting role (ZDNet, 17 April 2003)
Brief coverage of the digital TV voting pilot in Swindon.
- Doubts over the new democracy - by Mark Ward (BBC, 17 February 2003)
Ward considers the lessons of US experience for the UK 2003 voting pilots.
- England tests e-voting by Shane Peterson (Government Technology, November 2002)
Coverage of the 2002 pilots, with some commentary from vendors.
- Government 'a long way off' e-voting target by Simon Parker (Guardian, 1 August 2002)
- Mixed verdict on e-voting trials (BBC, 1 August 2002)
Some commentary from the Electoral Commission on the 2002 pilots.
- Scope calls for national guidelines on e-voting websites (Scope press release, 22 July 2002)
Scope points out that the complexity of the layout of the websites could pose a problem for some disabled people.
- Online elections by 2007, says e-Envoy (VNUnet, 4 April 2002)
Quotes from Andrew Pinder, UK e-Envoy, on plans for voting pilots.
- Whitehall warned to treat e-voting with caution by Paul Dempsey (EETimes UK, 7 February 2002)
Coverage of commentary from the Electoral Reform Society on voting pilots.
- Cook plans to make UK first to vote on internet By Jackie Ashley (The Guardian, 7 January 2002)
Other organisations with voting projects
- Polls Apart – Scope’s access to voting campaign
- Hansard Society
- Electoral Reform Society - ERS campaigns around reform of electoral and democratic systems. It has addressed both ballot design and the e-voting pilots.
- Foundation for Information Policy Research - FIPR is mainly concerned with information and security issues.
UK web logs
If you are keeping up with voting and usability in the UK, there are two web logs that should be on your bookmarks list.