Ease of use for the voter is an important consideration for a voting system.
One of the biggest usability considerations is the extent to which a given system mitigates unintentional undervotes (when a vote is not recorded in a race) or overvotes (when it appears that the voter has selected more candidates in a race than is allowed, which nullifies all votes for that office). These are considered “errors” and are often used to measure the efficacy of a voting system.
-- EVMs either prevent error or inform the voter of the error before the ballot is cast. Some also contain a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) so that the voter can view a paper record of his vote and verify that it is correct.
-- Precinct counting optical scan machine, where paper ballots are scanned in the polling place, can inform the voter of an error, in which case the voter can fix the error, or vote correctly on a new ballot (the original ballot is not counted).
-- Central counting optical scan machine, where ballots are collected to be scanned and counted in a central location, do not provide voters with the option of fixing an error. Central count scanners process ballots much more quickly, and are often used by jurisdictions that receive a large amount of absentee or vote-by-mail ballots.
-- BMDs also have the ability to prevent an error of inform the voter of the error before the ballot is cast, and resulting paper ballots can either be counted at the precinct level or centrally.
-- Hand counted paper ballots do not permit the opportunity for voters to correct overvotes or undervotes. It also introduces the opportunity for human error in tabulating votes.
HAVA requires at least one accessible voting device in each polling place that permits a voter with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently.
-- EVMs meet the federal requirements for allowing voters with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently.
-- Paper ballots typically do not provide the same ability for voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently, either because of manual dexterity, reduced vision or other disabilities that make paper hard to use. These voters may need assistance from another person to mark the ballot. Or, to meet federal requirements and provide assistance to voters with disabilities, jurisdictions that use paper ballots may offer either a ballot marking device or a EVM, available for voters who choose to use them.
The auditability of a system relates to two post-election procedures: post-election audits and recounts. Post-election audits verify that voting systems are accurately recording and counting votes. Not all states conduct post-election audits and the process varies in those that do, but typically a hand count of paper ballots from randomly selected precincts is compared to the totals reported by the EVM or optical scan system (more information can be found on NCSL’s Post-Election Audit page). If a recount is necessary, many states also conduct a hand recount of the paper records.
-- EVMs don’t generate a paper ballot. For auditability, they can be equipped with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) that allows the voter to verify that his vote was recorded correctly. It is the VVPATs that are used for post-election audits and recounts. Many older EVMs do not come with a VVPAT. However, some election technology vendors can retrofit equipment with VVPAT printers. VVPATs look like a rolling receipt behind glass where voter’s choices are indicated on paper. Studies show that most voters do not review their choices on the VVPAT, and therefore typically do not take that extra step of verifying that their vote was recorded correctly.
-- When using paper ballots, it is the paper ballots themselves that are used for post-election audits and recounts. No additional paper trail is necessary.
-- Paper ballots also allow election officials to examine ballots to review voter intent. Depending on the laws of the state, a stray mark or circle may be considered when determining a voter’s intent, especially in the case of a recount. This is not possible with a EVM, even those with VVPATs.
-- Newer optical scan machines can also generate a digital cast ballot image that can be used for auditing, with the actual paper ballots used as backup. Some security experts have concerns with using a digital cast vote record as opposed to going to the actual paper record, however, pointing out that anything computerized has the potential to be hacked.
Post time: 14-09-21