Touchscreen Problems In New Mexico: Touch One Candidate, Vote For The Other

from the whooooops dept

Just as a judge has decided that there couldn't possibly be any technical glitches on e-voting machines, reports are coming out of New Mexico that voters using e-voting machines tried to vote for one candidate and saw checkmark appear next to the other candidate. The whole thing sounds a bit suspicious. Voting officials blame (of course) "user error," suggesting they accidentally touched the screen in the wrong place. Ed Felten believes the machines are miscalibrated. Either one of these is quite scary. Even if the election officials are right, the fact that multiple people reported this problem suggests there's a real problem with these machines. If it is a calibration problem, that's even worse. The entire point of these machines is to let you vote accurately. The fact that they're making it into the voting booth miscalibrated to make clicking for one candidate really a vote for another suggests something is very, very wrong with the procedure required to set up and certify that these machines will safely and accurately record your vote.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Rob Henderson, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 10:38am

    Miscalibrated fingers?

    I manage a polling place that uses touch screen units. I have personal experience with the "I touched one voter and the other was selected issue". The main culprit? Long fingernails. Women with long nails (not meaning to be sexist here, I've just not experienced problems with long-nailed men) who are unused to touch screen units seem to want to touch the screen with the pad of their finger. Frequently, the tip of the fingernail touches first, on the candidate above the one they are targeting. A simple explanation, and the 'problem' goes away.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike (profile), Oct 26th, 2004 @ 10:40am

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    You don't think that's still a problem? If that happens frequently, then the designers should have designed the system to avoid that. I'd believe the explanation you're saying, but it's still problematic that it happens. Instead of blaming the person (or their fingernails) why not design a system knowing that this is an issue?

     

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  3.  
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    StuckWithADish, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 10:56am

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    The obvious solution here would be to "stagger" the checkboxes so that one is never directly above another one.
    I would be very interested to know how evenly distributed the errors are, i.e. what % of voters "accidentally" choose a Republican versus a Democrat. My cynical nature suspects it is something like 95% Republican.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Beck, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 11:39am

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    They could fix this by providing a stylus to select the choices. It would work like the touch-screen debit card reader at Wal-Mart - you can use the stylus to input your debit card PIN, or you can just press the buttons with your fingers.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    dorpus, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    Yeah, but then illiterate Mexicans will hold the stylus with their fist and punch a hole through the screen.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Hero, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 2:58pm

    Problem? What problem?

    Maybe this is the way they want them to work.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Silverjets, Oct 26th, 2004 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    Ummm....why not just have a confirmation box pop-up that says, "You have selected candidate X. OK CANCEL" How hard would that be?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Rob Henderson, Oct 27th, 2004 @ 9:51am

    Re: Miscalibrated fingers?

    When you select one choice, it gets a black X on an orange field next to it. If thet is not what you want, touch it again to deselect, and touch another choice. At the end of the ballot, after you have voted or bypassed every question, there is a summary screen that shows you all the races and your selections. The questions in which you did not make a selection are highlighted. Touching any question takes you back to that point in the ballot to allow you to alter your choice. Only once you have seen all the questions and the summary screen can you press the final "cast ballot" button.

     

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