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Usability and the US Presidential Election Ballot

News StoriesCommentary Ballot Pictures HumorQuotesDead Links

The UPA, our sister usability organization has a continuing project on voting and usablity

News Stories Mentioning Usability and the Ballot

Stories covering the balloting itself

Analyzing the vote

Stories focusing on ballot design and usability

Stories on new or alternative ballot interfaces and the political aftermath

Go to top of pageCommentary and Research Studies

Research or journal articles on ballot design

  • Disenfranchised by Design - Voting Systems and the Election Process - Susan King Roth, 1998. In Information Design Journal. A description of two studies of voting systems in Franklin County, Ohio. "In both cases, Roth's study found serious problems in human factors and information design, compromising the ability of people to make accurate and informed electoral choices. (roth1998.pdf - 292K)

  • An electoral butterfly effect - Robert C. Sinclair, Melvin M. Mark, Sean E. Mooer, Carrie A. Lavis, Alexander S. Soldat, Nature Magazine (web pre-press of 7 December 2000 edition, Volume 408, pp 665-666).
    Robert Sinclair of the University of Alberta and colleagues report in a Brief Communication this week that some Canadian shoppers made a crucial mistake in simulated voting, for a Canadian prime minister, of exactly the type that may have given Pat Buchanan votes intended for Al Gore. Of 53 people using the double-column butterfly ballot, four made mistakes; three of these involved voting for the candidate in the wrong column. By contrast, a similarly sized group of shoppers given a simpler, single-column ballot made no mistakes. (PDF (51K))

Follow-up commentary from the usability community (Jan 1, 2001 or later)

Commentary from the usability community immediately following the election (Nov 7 - Dec 31, 2000)

Ballot Pictures

And, from other places...

Go to top of pageCartoons and Humor About the Ballot

Go to top of pageQuotes About the Usability of the Ballot

Quotations from voters culled from news stories

"I think I voted mistakenly for Buchanan because his dot appeared between Bush's and Gore's," said 76-year-old Stanley Haber of Boca Raton, who went to Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections offices to complain. "I think there should be a totally new vote." - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

"It was so hard to tell who and what you were voting for. I couldn't figure it out, and I have a doctorate," voter Eileen Klasfeld said. - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

"When I went to push the one for president, I pushed one and it seemed to be just below the office of vice president. It seemed like I had to push one for vice president, too. Then I saw I had accidentally voted twice," Smith said. - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

"I don't think they are confused. I think they left the polling place and became confused. The ballot is very straightforward. You follow the arrow, you punch the location. Then you have voted for who you intend to elect," said Roberts, a Republican appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, George W.'s brother. - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

Reports of a missing ballot box at Precinct 26C in Pompano Beach was not true, she said. "It was not lost," Carroll said. The box, she added, was mistakenly left at the precinct. "It was found where it should have been" and intact. "We can't prevent human mistakes." - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

"I was trying to make the print bigger so elderly people in Palm Beach County can read it," said LePore. .She also said if it was so confusing, someone should have pointed it out to her earlier. "We sent out sample ballots to all registered voters, and no one said a word," she said. - Sun-Sentinel Nov. 7 2000

But state elections officials said they saw no problem with it. "There's nothing wrong with the ballots in Palm Beach County," said Clay Roberts, director of the state division of elections. "The ballot is laid out according to state law and the voting system they have. - Sun-Sentinal Nov. 7 2000

Victorious GOP Rep. Mark Foley said he had a Reform Party opponent who drew 2,651 votes, signaling support in Palm Beach County. "The allegations that people were voting in error because they were confused is nonsensical," he said.   - Salon Nov. 8 2000

The ballot was not, in fact, confusing, said Evans, who accused Gore officials of intentionally circulating a poor, fuzzy reproduction of the ballot. Moreover, he said, the butterfly ballot was not unique to Palm Beach County, and he held up a copy of the ballot for state judges in Dade County that also divided the candidates into separate, alternating columns. - MSNBC Nov. 9 2000

"The ballot is very straightforward," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol Roberts. "You follow the arrow, you punch the location. Then you have voted for who you intend to elect."  - CNN Nov. 9 2000

Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democratic congressman who represents parts of the area, said he witnessed the confusion. "I saw it with my own eyes. Hundreds of people left the ballot box and became hysterical in the parking lots when they realized they had probably voted for Pat Buchanan," he told CNN's "Larry King Live."  - CNN Nov. 9 2000

"I went to the polls for one specific reason, to vote for Gore. I hit the second hole. I am sure I did. What was going on in my mind was somehow my right to vote had been taken away from me," said Lillian Gaines, 67, one of three residents who filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court seeking a new election. - CNN Nov. 9 2000

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, dispatched by Texas Gov. George W. Bush to oversee the GOP monitoring team in Florida, said that Palm Beach County voters' rights weren't violated, even if their ballots were thrown out. He noted that the ballot had been posted in newspapers and public places, as required by law, and said no one complained at the time. - Associated Press Nov. 9 2000

Rabbi Richard Yellin said that when it dawned on several of his congregants that they might have unwittingly voted for Buchanan, "people started crying." Buchanan's remarks about World War II and the Middle East have been criticized by many Jews as anti-Semitic. - Associated Press Nov. 9 2000

"I came out of the ballot box totally confused,'' said Lillian Gaines, 67, of West Palm Beach, who dropped in at the elections office to complain. "I don't know whether I have thrown away my vote and voted for Buchanan. I would drop dead immediately.'' - Miami Herald Nov. 9 2000

"Hundreds of people spoke to me yesterday before the polls closed about their extraordinary confusion. I myself when I went to the polls was confused,'' said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler. "I saw the people who came out of the polling places. They were crying. They were in tears. In hysterics.'' - Miami Herald Nov. 9 2000

Wexler produced a memorandum issued by Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore around 5 p.m. on Election Day that hinted at the confusion among voters. The memo told poll workers to remind all voters "that they are to vote only for one presidential candidate and that they are to punch the hole next to the arrow next to the number next to the candidate they wish to vote for.'' - Miami Herald Nov. 9 2000

Gov. Jeb Bush said he saw no irregularities in the Palm Beach County ballot, and noted that a sample ballot was published in the newspaper before the election. Palm Beach County voters also received sample ballots in the mail.
- Miami Herald Nov. 9 2000

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