How usable is your electronic ballot?

Are the buttons too big? Is the type too small? Should it be bolded? Is there enough contrast in the color? Is it high enough resolution?

As I waited in line to early vote yesterday and watched voters punch at the touchscreen, bend over to get a closer look at the screen and raise their hands to require assistance I wondered how much usability testing our electronic voting system in Arkansas has undergone? This is the 2nd time I’ve voted using an electronic ballot so it has at least had some real world testing, but from just casually observing the 10 people voting in front of me in line there were some definite issues.

In general, I didn’t have any problems voting completing my ballot in under five minutes, but a couple of citizens stayed at their voting station the entire 20 minutes I was in the early voting site. In general if the voter was under 45-50, it didn’t seem they had any problems with voting, but voters that looked over 50 had a few issues and then voters over 65 took a considerably longer amount of time to cast a ballot.

Most younger voters are probably more familiar with computers and touchscreens than older voters. Of course back when we voted with pencils most older voters were more familiar with pencils and paper than younger voters.

The election worker who set-up my ballot told me at least three times that he had numerous complaints that the party affiliation line under each candidate was too small and make sure that I read it (of course, he didn’t realize that I just ignore party affiliation when I vote).

From my perspective I thought the ballot was easy to read. It was apparent what race I was voting in, who the candidates for office were and their party affiliation. The touch screen was very responsive to my command. My ballot was four pages long which I felt was a little long, but it really didn’t take to long to fill it out. The only part that slightly confused me was how many times I had to press complete to let the machine know I was done– I think it was three.

Social media’s use in Senate elections

Mike Allen shares in interesting report in this morning’s Politico Playbook from the Emerging Media Research Council analyzing social media usage in US Senate elections specifically looking at the Florida Senate race. The draft report outlines three winning social media strategies (which seem pretty much like common sense to me).

  • Facebook – “Candidates who update their profile page regularly give fans a reason to return more frequently, resulting
    in higher rates of interaction and larger fan communities.”
  • Twitter – “High rates of messaging result in greater absolute numbers of followers and a greater level of follower engagement.”
  • YouTube – “The most popular political videos are campaign advertisements and position statements crafted specifically for the Web.”

Big Brother IS watching: the feds in social media

First we had Please Rob Me outlining the best time to burgle your friend’s house from foursquare information.  Now we have the IRS and the Justice Department training their agents on how to use social media to collect useful information about you.

I know this sounds conspiracy theorist, but it’s not. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has actually collected training documents from the feds detailing procedures.

Also, I know that the feds aren’t the only governmental body using what you publish on the Internet against you. I personally know someone who was audited by the Arkansas Department of Revenue because of the professionalism of their web site (I guess we all know who is next after this post).

Launching CampaignTwit- listening to politicians tweet

I built a new web site over the weekend and launched it this morning– CampaignTwit. The site aggregates tweets from Arkansas politicians into a feed and page based on race.  Every race gets a page with all the most recent tweets from each candidate displayed on the page. The site provides context for each tweet displaying it with all the other candidates tweets. You can also tell which campaigns are more active tweeters and how each campaign treats social media– one way or two.

The site is built on WordPress with all the feeds pulled in using the RSS widget. WordPress uses iThemes Builder Astro child  theme customized with the builder style manager plug-in.

Will broadband and media innovation sustain democracy?

The free flow of information “is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools and public health.” That’s what the Knight Commission on Information Needs of a Democracy concluded in their report on Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age.  The 145 page report urges the nation to making sure all Americans have broadband access just as the emphasized ground transportation in building an interstate highway system a half-century ago.

The commission also examined issued the media is facing recommending:

  • Direct media policy toward innovation, competition, and support for business models that provide marketplace incentives for quality journalism.
  • Increase the role of higher education,community and nonprofit institutions as hubs of journalistic activity and other information-sharing for local communities.