Washington, November 4 : A University of Maryland researcher has come up with several recommendations that can enable voters to minimize the chance of election machine-related errors.
Paul S. Herrnson, the University of Maryland political scientist, has revealed that his team's recommendations are based on a comprehensive study of the problems voters may face while using touch screen and paper-based machines.
"In our experiments, even with the simplest ballot design and the most user-friendly machines, we found voters still cast their ballots for the wrong candidate about three percent of the time," Herrnson says.
"Depending on which polls you believe, that's enough of a margin to affect the outcome on Tuesday. Most often, when voters make a mistake, they not only fail to cast their ballot for the candidate they want, they end up voting for the opponent. So it's a double whammy.
"Under the best of circumstances, simple voter mistakes can make the difference in a close election, so it's up to individuals to go into the booth prepared and aware of the pitfalls," adds Herrnson.
He recommends that voters bring a marked-up sample ballot to the polling place because it will enable them to quickly and accurately transfer the information from the sample ballot to the real thing, saving time and cutting down the likelihood of errors due to snap decisions.
He further suggests that voters using touch screen or other electronic voting systems pay careful attention to the review screen. The screen will highlight any races or ballot questions where the voter has not made a selection or has marked the ballot incorrectly.
Herrnson also says that voters using touch screen systems should compare the review screen to the sample ballot they brought with them.
Voters using paper ballot/optical scan systems will have to be more vigilant, according to him, because such systems do not have review pages that highlight skipped or missing votes.
The researcher further says that once voters realize that they have forgotten to make a selection on a paper ballot, the remedy is simply to fill in the oval and make the choice. But, the remedy for a wrong selection is to start over with a new paper ballot and discard the old one.
Voters who cross out one choice and fill in the oval for another are likely to have that vote nullified because the scanner will treat them as two votes in a single race, an overvote.
If voting on paper and casting a write-in vote, be sure to fill in the oval, complete the arrow, or do whatever is required to alert the machine that a write-in selection has been made.
Regarding long-term solutions, Herrnson suggests greater care in the design and preparation of the ballots by election officials and increased education efforts to make sure voters are familiar with the machines and the ballot before they go to cast their votes.