They've designed a mobile voting system optimized for use on a smartphone and tested its usability against traditional voting platforms, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society reported Tuesday.
While many U.S. counties have incorporated electronic voting technology, largely in response to challenges related to older mechanical and punch-card models, they present a new set of issues for voters unfamiliar with the technology, the researchers said.
"Current electronic voting systems have numerous issues -- from usability and accessibility to security to the fact that many of them are nearing the end of their life cycle -- and there are few good certified alternatives currently on the market," said Michael Byrne, a professor of psychology and computer science at Rice University and one of the coauthors of a study published in the journal Human Factors.
In the study the researches asked 84 participants with a diverse range of voting histories and educational backgrounds to engage in a series of mock elections using different voting methods.
While the efficiency and perceived usability was the same for the smartphone-based system and other voting methods, smartphone owners committed fewer errors on the mobile voting system than on the traditional voting systems, the researchers found.
"There are numerous potential advantages [to using a smartphone-based system]," Byrne said. "Nobody likes to wait in line at the polling place, and so mobile voting offers the opportunity to cast votes when and where it is convenient for the voter."
However, he acknowledged, such a system would require solving a substantial number of serious security and authentication problems.