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Online Voting Systems Must Consider Familiarity to Voters

by Matt Metzner, published

online voting system or internet voting systems must be familiar to voters.

Accessibility is paramount in establishing an online voting system. Next to accessibility, familiarity, and consequentially ease of use, are two of the most important factors to be considered when crafting the system. A new online voting system where the interface is substantially different than traditional methods could confuse voters or dissuade them from participating. The intention of an online voting system is increasing the ability to participate, crafting a system that creates a new barrier, instead of an opportunity, would be counter-productive.

Several online voting systems that have been reviewed in this column implemented familiar styles of ballots in their internet voting system. The system that Utah has put in place creates an opportunity for voters to participate on new platforms using familiar methods. In Utah's internet voting process, deployed military members can log in from a remote military base and are presented with a ballot that looks identical to a ballot they would use at home. The troops using this system have two familiar methods interlacing to increase their ability to participate, and making the process as simple as possible.

Aside from ease of use, new electoral systems have faced obstacles in courts when they have the potential to confuse voters. By maintaining existing forms in an electronic format, or creating electronic ballots that mimic ballots at polling places, opponents would face an uphill battle when challenging online elections.

Minimizing voter confusion also serves democratic principles as it will allow more voters to participate while being fully informed on the issues they are voting for. Creating electronic ballots that could mislead a new voter or a voter averse to new technology is a sophisticated problem that should be left to the Secretary of States and to online ballot developers. Assuming that paper ballots are the ideal ballot, mimicking them online is the most favorable option for electronic voting proponents.

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