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The UX of Voting is Miserable

Last weekend I went to vote early thinking I could avoid the long lines at the polling place. Well that was a little naive of me to think…but long lines were just part of the problem when it comes to someone's voting experience.

UX Problem #1: Lines are too long and many people don’t have the patience to wait.

When I got there a few other people were walking in and one of the election clerk told us it was going to be a 45 minute wait. The other people immediately left. I’m not going to lie, I also considering leaving — I tried to justify leaving by thinking whether my vote even matters, but I convinced myself to stay. There were maybe 35 people ahead of me and 3 voting machines, I even thought “hey the wait might be shorter than 45 minutes”. Spoiler alert! I was wrong. It took much longer.

UX Problem #2: The dial on the voting machines.

It’s a little deceiving but when you first walk up to a voting machine it looks like it’s a touch screen since that’s what we're used to these days (i.e. self checkout at the grocery store, ATM, smartphones, etc.), but alas the voting machine was not. And then you look down and see that main mode of navigation is a dial. Yes, a dial.

The dial definitely seemed like an odd choice since that’s a component that we very rarely see. It made me wonder why they didn’t just go with something like arrows, since people are more accustomed to seeing and using those. Other than most people’s general unfamiliarly with the dial, my other compliant was how sensitive it was. I’d often accidentally scroll past the option I wanted to select and have to go back.

UX Problem #3: Election clerks don’t know when the paper will run out and there’s no one on-site that can change it when it does.

Remember how I said they told me it was suppose to be a 45 minute wait? Well, it was actually a 1 hour and 30 minute wait. Their estimate was based on all 3 voting machines working, but by the time I got to the front of the line I saw that only 1 voting machine was in use. The other two were out of paper. Even though there were 4 people working, not one of them had the authority to change the paper. They had to call an election official who was assigned to several locations to come out and change it. The clerks didn’t know when or if he’d show up at all.

The best solution would be to find a way to eliminate the paper aspect altogether, but that’s a whole other can of worms. At the very least it seems like the voting machine should have some sort of alert system in place to notify the election clerks when the paper is getting low so they can be more proactive and avoid voting machine downtime. Instead of the voter having to inform them that machine is “broken.” The other option would be to have someone always on-site and ready to change the paper.

UX Problem #4: Voting for uncontested candidates wastes time.

In my county, there were only 17 items on the ballot. Out of those, 6 positions were ones where the candidate was running uncontested—making me wonder why they even give you the option to vote for them. Removing them from the ballot completely would cause confusion amongst voters and I’m sure there’s legal reasons they need to be displayed. But why have people waste time thinking about whether they should vote for a candidate that has already won?

UX Problem #5: You need to confirm your ballot 3 times.

Once you finish selecting the candidates you want to vote for you need to confirm 3 times before it actually gets submitted.

  1. First, you get a preview of all your selections on Ballot Summary page and are prompted to click “Cast Ballot”.
  2. Then you get a printed out version that you can review and are prompted on the screen to “Accept” or “Reject” the printed page.
  3. And finally the screen prompts you to click “Cast Ballot” again. And takes to a confirmation screen with an American flag waving in the air.

The election clerk came out in the hall reminding us several times that our ballot isn’t cast until we see that American flag confirmation screen. He told us that several people waited in this long line, forgot to complete that third step, and left — the election clerks then have to cancel the ballot and the votes that person made don’t count.


Next election cycle, I’ll save myself a couple hours and opt to vote via mail.



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Monique Marchwiany

Monique's interest in design started at a young age, but it wasn't until going to school at the University of Illinois that she discovered her love of UX & UI design. With degrees in both Graphic Design and Psychology, she has developed a strong understanding of how design can enrich a user's overall experience. She also enjoys running outdoors, reading, and baking/eating plenty of baked goods.