E-Voting in Alexandria Now Too

I voted in today’s Virginia primary this morning, and to my surprise my polling place in Alexandria no longer had the familiar ScanTron-type ballots — instead they featured shiny new e-voting hardware, specifically the eSlate Electronic Voting System.

From the looks of it, it’s not too bad of a system. They have special ADA-compliant tablets for handicapped voters, and the ballot information is collected by being stored on flash cards, rather than wirelessly as with Fairfax’s system, so there’s no risk of having the data intercepted “in the air”. I didn’t get a paper receipt, though, so the standard problem of “how do I know my vote actually went anywhere?” still exists.

From a UI standpoint, the device is less than optimal. You use a big wheel to navigate through menus, clicking a big “Enter” button to make candidate selections. Once you’ve chosen your candidates, it gives you a summary of your ballot and asks you if you want to commit it; you can either hit a “Prev” button to go back and re-select, or a red “Cast Ballot” button to finalize your vote.

This sounds easy enough, and they made me watch a volunteer demo the system before I could vote, but I still managed to get it wrong when I actually went to vote — I kept hitting the “Cast Ballot” button to choose candidates, instead of “Enter”. Doing this dumps you to the summary screen with “No Selection” entered for the race you were looking at. This was confusing for me, and I’m a professional geek! Frankly, if the Cast Ballot button is only useful when you’re done, they should have it flash a “THIS BUTTON IS DISABLED UNTIL YOU HAVE SELECTED ALL YOUR CANDIDATES” error message, or something similar.

Still, judging by what people went through last time around in Fairfax, I suppose it could have been a lot worse.