In 2006, election officials presented the following screen to voters in Sarasota County, Florida.
The Problem: The electronic interface displayed candidates for the Congressional district race on the same screen with candidates for the Governor/Lt. Governor’s race. Undoubtedly the problems that arose as a result of this violation of the principle that electronic interfaces should display one contest at a time were exacerbated by the fact that the word “STATE,” in highlighted blue letters, drew voters’ attention away from the first race and towards the second.
The Result: More than 14,000 of the voters presented with this ballot cast invalid votes in the race, for a residual rate of 13.9%. Undervote rates were significantly higher in La Casa Mobile Home Park, a retirement community for seniors, where 30% of votes cast on DREs were not recorded in the Congressional district race.
People are far more likely to miss questions if they are asked to answer more than one at a time. It is best, when using electronic ballots, to place candidates for just one race on a single computer screen. This is a basic principle of interface usability: automated teller machines and movie kiosks generally ask one question at a time, and proceed to a new screen only after the user has answered the question on a previous screen. (For example, ATM machines ask uses, first to “Enter PIN Number,” then, after the PIN number is entered, proceeds to the next screen and asks the user to “Select Account for Withdrawal.”)
The Governor/Lt. Governor’s race has been moved to a separate screen. The contest for the 13th Congressional district now stands alone—one question per screen.