Do Senior Citizens Feel Comfortable Using Electronic Voting Machines?
The Office of the Southington, Connecticut Registrar of Voters released the 2003 report “Summary of Experience: Avante Electronic Voting Machines,” available on their website, which stated:
“We were led to believe the elderly voters were going to have the most problems with voting on the machines so we scheduled 2 morning demonstrations in our Calendar House and had 100 plus senior citizens vote on the machines.
Because we were anxious to determine what problems voters would face, we let the seniors vote without assistance just outlining the general operation of the machine. To a person [sic] they had no trouble using the machines and loved them.
Comments like ‘great’, ‘it’s about time’, ‘love them’, ‘easy to use’ were the order of the day. We held demonstrations in an over 55 condo village with the same result.”2003
The Batesville Daily Guard (Arkansas) ran a story on May 8, 2006 titled “Seniors React To Electronic Voting,” in which Janice Fae Mitchell wrote:
“Today marks the first day of early voting, and many senior citizens are gearing up for the move from paper ballots to electronic voting. ‘I think it’s going to be great! I think we need to get up to date,’ Donna Guess of Horseshoe Bend said… ‘Anybody who uses the touch-screen at Wal-Mart should be able to use this. A lot of people who moved here from up North had the touch-screen system, so it should not be a problem for them,’ said Phyllis Smith…
George Florea, a Horseshoe Bend city councilman, said he saw the touch-screen voting machine when it was brought to the city council meeting. ‘I think it will be good once people learn how to use them. I think it’s a step forward.’ Starling Burke, a resident of Melbourne, is also positive about it. ‘It doesn’t intimidate me at all. I’ve been involved with it (touch-screen) before.'”May 8, 2006
Beverly Ross, California’s Tehama County Clerk and Recorder/Registrar of Voters, in a July 30, 2007 State of California public hearing regarding the conclusions of the University of California’s “Top-to-Bottom Accessibility Review” (PDF 1.08 MB), stated:
“With continued use and by adding the voter verified paper audit trail prior to the June 2006 primary, our voters are very pleased with this [DRE] system’s ease of use and are confident with the fact that their votes are counted accurately. Our senior citizens as well as our voters with special needs have appreciated the fact that many of them can now cast their votes unassisted at our polling locations.”July 30, 2007
Sequoia Voting Systems, a manufacturer of electronic voting machines, distributed a paper to New York State lawmakers titled “Correcting Fallacies about Voting Technology Options for New York,” 2005, which explained:
“Some groups have attempted to argue that senior citizens are intimidated by electronic voting systems. Nothing could be farther from the truth; in reality, seniors have been among the biggest supporters for electronic voting because of the large, easy to read type and the speed and simplicity of completing the ballot.”2005
Thad E. Hall, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Utah, and R. Michael Alvarez, PhD, Professor of Political Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), released “American Attitudes About Electronic Voting: Results of a National Survey,” Sep. 9, 2004, in which they explained:
“There were strong patterns in the relative degree of comfort with various voting systems… Regarding age, we see that a majority (56.1%) of Generation Y registered voters (those aged 18 to 27) expressed comfort with the use of electronic voting machines, while almost 32% of those 59 or older were comfortable with the newer electronic voting technology… Older voters are also the least likely to express comfort with the use of electronic voting systems.”Sep. 9, 2004
Benjamin Bederson, PhD, Director of Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland, explained in his Oct. 2002 paper “Electronic Voting System Usability Issues” CHI Letters:
“Research suggests that older adults consistently perform more poorly than younger adults in performing computer-based tasks. This is true both with respect to the amount of time required to perform the task, as well as the number of errors made…
It may also be that a decrease in manual dexterity and in eye-hand coordination accounts for a greater difficulty in operating such systems. In one recent study, age was positively correlated with difficulty in performing tasks with a computer mouse. Although popular DRE systems do not use a computer mouse, similar issues are present. Older adults have greater difficulty in viewing a computer screen, and correct conceptualization of the relationship between screen or button manipulation and program activity may be a problem.”Oct. 2002
Matthew Bishop, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California at Davis, in a July 30, 2007 State of California public hearing regarding the conclusions of the University of California’s “Top-to-Bottom Accessibility Review” (PDF 1.08 MB), stated:
“The reviewers also had concerns about speech. Simultaneous output of both speech and visually displayed ballots is very important for many of the elderly and other voters with low vision, but it was not available on all of the systems — at all on one of the systems. I’m sorry. Speech rate control was not available on one system and that system’s speech was too fast for some voters… On the other voting systems speech rate controls cause major distortion of the speech output, making the speech difficult or impossible for many elderly voters to understand.”July 30, 2007
New Yorkers for Verified Voting’s May 2005 paper “Refuting Sequoia Claims About Optical Scan Voting” was issued as a direct rebuttal to the Sequoia Voting Systems paper “Correcting Fallacies about Voting Technology Options for New York,” and stated:
“Ask any election commissioner in New York State what senior citizens in their communities, both voters and poll workers, say about voting on DREs. They do not want to vote on computers, plain and simple.
It is also strange that Sequoia uses the phrase ‘large and easy to read type.’ The Sequoia AVC Advantage, the model offered to New York State, has a ballot face using a small typeface that cannot be enlarged. Because the ballot face is printed, it cannot be resized to a larger font size. This inability of the Sequoia Advantage to enlarge the typeface is a source of dissatisfaction to visually impaired voters who require large fonts and the ability to display text on different background colors.”May 2005