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How to Build an Undervoting Machine: Lessons from an Alternative Ballot Design
Kristen K. Greene and Michael D. Byrne, Rice University; Stephen N. Goggin, University of California, Berkeley
Despite the importance of usability in ensuring election integrity, it remains an under-studied aspect of voting systems. Voting computers (a.k.a. DREs) offer the opportunity to present ballots to voters in novel ways, yet this space has not been systematically explored. We constructed a DRE that, unlike most commercial DREs, does not require voters to view every race, but instead starts at the “review screen” and lets voters directly navigate to races. This was compared with a more traditional, sequentially-navigated, DRE. The direct access navigation model had two effects, both of which were quite large. First, voters made omission (undervote) errors markedly more often. Second, voters who were free to choose who to vote for chose to vote in substantially fewer races. We also examined the relationship between the true error rate—which is not observable in real elections—and the residual vote rate, a measure of effectiveness commonly used for real elections. Replicating the findings of [Campbell and Byrne 2009a], the mean residual vote rate was close to the mean true error rate, but the correlation between these measures was low, suggesting a loose coupling between these two measures.
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