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Convergent Usability Evaluation, p. 2

Continued from p. 1

Voluneteers at call centers
EIRS was used by an army of volunteers
working in call centers across the US


In 2004, many American expressed growing unease about evidence that U.S. elections might be compromised by fraud and undemocratic tactics. While some problems were raised around access to polling places and voter lists, the growing use of  computerized voting machines also intensified the public concern. Many experts warned that the machines in use were not only vulnerable to fraud, but that misuse of such machines may have already determined key elections -- problems that are documented in an article The Nation published in August 16, 2004, "How They Could Steal the Election This Time," by Ronnie Dugger.

CPSR work on EIRS began in 2004

CPSR experts were among those not only raising the alarm, but working to document and prevent fraudulent elections. As a key part of that effort, in 2004 CPSR worked jointly with Verified Voting Foundation and other organizations to develop a web-based system for recording voting problems, which they called the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS).  Funding came from a grant to both organizations from the Quixote Foundation.

EIRS was developed on open-source platforms (PHP, PHP Surveyor, MySQL, etc.) by a cadre of volunteers scattered around the U.S. A few team-members from other countries (e.g., Germany and Australia) also pitched in.  The ERIS system was in continuous service from the 2004 Florida Primary through the November election.

Both the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law (LC), and People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) used EIRS to collect and respond to election irregularities. On election day (Nov 2), 22 call-centers around the U.S. were in operation, staffed with volunteers (mainly lawyers and para-legals). They took calls, recorded incidents, helped callers solve problems immediately if possible, and triaged the reports to determine whether they needed an immediate response.

All in all, over 40,000 incidents were recorded in 2004, most of them on election day itself (Nov. 2). Much of the data from those incident reports is available to the public at  (To see the incidents, click the Maps/Research link on the home page, then click on the Election 2004 tab.)

EIRS team members observed the system in use on election day and then conducted interviews of call-center volunteers and managers to evaluate the performance of the system.  This paper, which describes the EIRS user-interface design process, was presented and published at the ACM SIGCHI 2005 conference.

At the same time, CPSR also was active in protesting the misuse of electronic voting machines, and submitted a Friend of the Court brief in the "Wexler" case, an important Florida court case in which Florida Congressman Robert Wexler  alleged that electronic voting machines used in Florida violate the constitutional right to Equal Protection and Due Process, because the machines do not permit a meaningful recount for close elections. We also supported lawsuits in Riverside and Berkeley, California calling for review of Direct Recording Electronic  voting machines.

Election 2005      

In the summer of 2005, PFAWF and LC asked the EIRS project team to simplify and improve EIRS for use in the 2005 elections, involving state and municipal offices in just a dozen states. Jeff Johnson was a

key member of this project. Call-volume was far lower (103 incidents vs. 40,000), was proportional to the low number of voters (about one one-hundredth as many voters as in 2004.)

The Future      

The EIRS Team is now discussing plans for improving EIRS further for the 2006 mid-term elections and beyond.  Anyone interested in being involved in that effort should, in early 2006, contact the EIRS Project Leader, John McCarthy <john (a)>. General information about EIRS is posted at Verified Voting Foundation's website.

CPSR is also evaluating other ways to get involved in preventing election fraud that stems from the misuse of voting technology.

-> Continued on p. 3: Background

Created by hdihuyen
Last modified December 22, 2005 05:38 PM

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