From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Voting System Needs Ergonomics

Are electronic voting, early voting or other new types of balloting really improvements to the United States’ voting system? No, says a University of Buffalo professor, who indicates that until elections account for ergonomics and the human factors associated with voting, the system could remain flawed.

“The debate after the last presidential election was very politicized, but what everyone was arguing about was an engineering problem,” Ann Bisantz, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences said in a Newswire release. “Unfortunately, the solutions that the scientific and engineering communities have developed since then haven’t yet been uniformly implemented.”

Bisantz, whose research, recommendations and conclusion are compiled in a teaching case study titled “Election 2000: A Case Study In Human Factors and Design,” said that the biggest problem with the voting system is that it’s still hard to use.

“Whether they’re developing microwave ovens or airline cockpits, human-factors engineers ask the same basic questions about all systems,” she said. “With a voting system, we would ask: ‘Do people know what they have to do to cast a vote?’ ‘Can they physically execute the required actions and see or hear what they need to see or hear?’ ‘Can they check to see if they have made the choice they intended to make?’ ‘Can they easily make changes if they have made a mistake?’ ”

In her case study, Bisantz notes that the “butterfly ballot”