Saturday, August 20, 2005


democracy is hard work

Ever since the infamous "butterfly ballot" in the US 2000 presidential election, usability professionals have taken a keen interest in elections.

New Zealand will hold parliamentary elections next month, and I have been interested to read a number of people mention that many voters are "confused" about how the NZ voting system works in practice. The confusion rests not with a ballot per se, but how the ballots are counted and what consequences result.

About a decade ago, New Zealand adopted a voting system known as MMP, which gives people two votes, one for a member of parliament, another for a political party. After the last election, a government commissioned survey (2003) found that only half of voters understood that the party vote determines the composition of parliament.

A Recent survey shows understanding is improving, but still falling short of what is ideal.

From the perspective of usability, MMP can be considered according the following criteria found in ISO 9241:

I'm not sure any voting system would satisfy all the above criteria, which were never meant to evaluate voting systems, but it is interesting to ask the questions. Democracy is hard work.

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