Possible use of Python for a voting machine demo project --your feedback requested

Ian Bicking ianb at colorstudy.com
Mon Jul 21 04:17:35 CEST 2003


On Sun, 2003-07-20 at 19:34, Alan Dechert wrote:
> > I really don't know why everyone wants to use touchscreens in voting
> > machines.  I hate touch screens, they are a horrible input method.
> >
> A lot of people agree with you.  Certainly, the Australians that designed
> their system would agree.  They went for a keypad.
> 
> http://www.softimp.com.au/evacs.html

I think the ATM model is considerably better than a keypad.  In a keypad
you have to view the number, then change focus and enter in the number,
then confirm the number and the selection.  Thinking particularly about
old people who aren't comfortable with computers, this sort of focus
shift is very difficult, though in the case of a keypad likely everyone
will have this focus shift and find the process more difficult as a
result.  The ATM model (buttons on the side of the monitor) doesn't
require any shift in focus, because the input devide (the buttons) and
the select itself are visually linked.

> On the other hand, a lot of people really really like the touch screens.  We
> can't make them all mouse driven since a percentage of the voters will have
> a big problem with that.  But there is no reason to give up on mouse driven
> systems just because some people can't use them.  Mice are very cheap and
> most people are used to them.  So we just need to have enough non-Mice
> systems to accommodate those that need/want them.  One nice thing about the
> touch screen with our system is that it will look and work exactly the same
> whether you use a mouse or touch screen.

Mice, unlike keypads, are comfortable for many people.  But an older
person generally has to think very hard about the movement of the mouse
to match it with the screen (since they are often reasoning to
themselves about how to move, rather than having an intuitive body-sense
of the mouse).

Any technique that has different levels of accessibility seems like it
would meet criticism for that.  People will have to decide which booth
to use, will have to be informed about the differences, and may find it
easier or harder than they thought once they choose.  But maybe it's not
a big deal, I don't know.

I think the ATM-style buttons should be fairly cheap, though.  You
already have to create an enclosure for the monitor, and in general
while you'll be using commodity PC parts you'll still have to set the
system up with a certain amount of care.

Speed should be excellent -- because of the tactile feedback and
reliability of the input, people could vote more confidently with less
error.  I would expect 100% accuracy with respect to the actual input
(though inaccuracies in reading, or simple indecisiveness will still
cause errors).  The one problem I would imagine would be the increased
difficulty of the interface for changing your vote, and that displaying
the current status of your vote would be exclusive with displaying the
choices for a particular race to choose among.  But since ultimately
correctness is ensured by confirming the printed ballot, I'm less
concerned about editing if it means you can go through the process more
quickly.  (You could make the vote a single keypress, but then display
at the top of the screen what your last selection was while still
presenting the choices for the next race... given enough room you could
even just split the screen in two and show all previous selections)

Potentially by using braille the keys could be blind-accessible, when
accompanied with some sort of audio.  Since the system would already be
modal when using keys, it wouldn't have to be adapted significantly for
that situation -- you'd simply need to change a setting on one of the
computers to do audio output and attach headphones, and then you'd have
your accessible booth.

Anyway, I just like keyboards more than mice if you can't tell...

  Ian







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