This is a website Behavior made for the Smithsonian’s American Museum of National History during the 2004 Presidential election campaign. It is the web companion for Vote: The Machinery of Democracy, an exhibition of artifacts from America’s long and colorful history of voting technologies.
It was a fascinating physical exhibition. And I’m still proud of our interactive exhibition, too (both the Flash and HTML versions). It’s just as relevant today as it was four years ago in our first post-chad Presidential election (although the interactive map is a little out of date by now — to see a more up-to-date but less-detailed view of how voting technologies are distributed today, use the SciFi Channel’s new map from their surprisingly-good coverage of this topic).
As tomorrow’s historic election approaches, and many Americans will find this year’s voting user experience to be different than what they might be used to, I think it’s helpful to reflect upon the long and complex political and technological paths that got us here. For some colorful tales from yesteryear, see this New Yorker article from just last week. And it’s probably a good idea to learn where we are today: this New York Times article from January 2008 is a great place to start.
The Politics of User Experience
I just want to add one more thing, speaking as a user experience design professional:
It is a profound embarrassment to our profession that touch-screen voting exists at all in our country. It is an inferior system in every thinkable way, including — right up there with reliability, security, and cost — pure empirical usability. User experience experts should be up in arms over the very existence of these machines. Except perhaps for assisting with certain special needs voters, there is no excuse for a state government to have purchased these machines except for either old-fashioned corruption or a sad, abject gullibility for slick marketing presentations by election machine company salespeople. We Americans who call ourselves usability advocates should make it a goal to rid the USA of these machines by the 2012 elections. Who’s with me?