New online voting technology that’s been 10 years in the making is coming out of Clemson University.
Dr. Juan Gilbert and his team of researchers believe PRIME-III will revolutionize the way election ballots are cast.
Gilbert said his inspiration for coming up with this next-generation voting machine was a mix of influences. One was the 2000 presidential election and the problems Florida had with improperly submitted ballots known as “hanging chads” that invalidated votes. He said the other influence was a lack of optimism by others that it could be done.
“We felt like we could do it,” he said Friday.
But the computer sciences professor added it was a challenge. “It’s not rocket science… it’s harder.” Gilbert said the challenge comes in coming up with a machine that anyone can use, no matter the age, background, education level, or disability. Gilbert said the final result is a one-size-fits-all voting machine. But he says the machine in the PRIME-III project was created for everyone. Even if you can’t see, hear, or read or do not have limbs you can still use the machine, he said.
According to a release from Clemson, PRIME-III allows voters to cast ballots by tapping a touchscreen or speaking into a microphone. Those who cannot articulate a candidate’s name have the option of blowing into the microphone. The system also includes a set of headphones and audio instructions for voters who have trouble reading or seeing the screen.
Currently, voters in South Carolina with disabilities use “accessible voting machines.” But Gilbert said poll workers often do not know how to use the machines or set them up.
There is growing interest in the PRIME-III voting machine. Several rehabilitation and independent-living centers in Oregon used PRIME-III in the 2012 presidential primaries. The system is being sent to some precincts in Wisconsin in April for a statewide election. Richland County is also interested in the system. Gilbert said the county wants try another program known as “Voter Pass,” which allows people to call in advance to reserve a machine. That allows them to avoid a line on Election Day by setting a time to vote.
Gilbert also said this new voting machine can’t be hacked. “When I use the word ‘hack’, I mean change the outcome of an election such that it’s undetectable.” Gilbert said his team has tried to hack it, but has not been successful.
Gilbert says his team will spend this semester doing usability studies as part of a certification through the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The commission helped fund the PRIME-III’s development with a $4.5 million grant in 2011.
Sheree Bernardi contributed to this report