Who Does Better with a Big Interface? Improving Voting Performance of Reading for Disabled Voters

Working Paper No.: 
24
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Lorin F. Wilde
Jonathan Goler
Ted Selker

This study shows how ballot interfaces variably affect the voting performance of people with different abilities. An interface with all information viewable simultaneously might either help orient or overwhelm a voter, depending on he/her skill-set. Voters with diagnosed reading disabilities performed significantly better on full-faced voting machines than those who demonstrated a high likelihood of similar, but undiagnosed, disabilities. In contrast, the diagnosed group performed worse than others when using standard-sized Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems. We suspect that this observed difference in performance is due to the interaction of system features with learned coping techniques, which allow diagnosed reading disabled voters to function effectively in other parts of everyday life. The full-faced system provides a means of orienting but not of guiding the voter, while the standard DRE guides the users through the voting process without giving the voter a means of orienting themselves. A hybrid design that incorporates the advantages of both these systems might be beneficial for both reading disabled and non-reading disabled voters.

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