University of Rochester

Political Scientist at Rochester on Team to Study Voting Systems

November 25, 2003

University of Rochester political scientist Richard G. Niemi is part of a team of researchers evaluating voting technology and ballot design with the aim of developing reliable guidelines to assure accurate voting and vote counts, and to instill voter confidence in elections.

With the support of a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Niemi, Paul Herrnson and Ben Bederson of the University of Maryland, and Fred Conrad and Michael Traygott of the University of Michigan have begun assessing the outdated as well as the innovative voting systems in use.

“The events surrounding the 2000 presidential election made it clear to everyone that voting procedures and equipment affect voters’ beliefs about their fairness and even their willingness to accept the results of an election,” says Niemi, professor of political science who specializes in voting behavior and civic education.

One of the group’s first efforts was the release last month of a comprehensive list of current voting machines and how they operate. (Information is available at www.capc.umd.edu/rpts/md_evote_ContempVotingMach.pdf.) An initial look at ballots, highlighting some of the problems with existing formats, was recently published by the group in Perspectives on Politics.

The Center for American Politics and Citizenship, a nonpartisan research center at the University of Maryland, is coordinating the project.

During the next three years, the group will develop procedures for accessing different voting techniques on the basis of the accuracy with which they record voters’ preferences, their ease of use, and other key factors related to voter confidence. Among other efforts, studies will be carried out to show human interaction with different voting technologies and ballot forms.

Niemi has been the recipient of many grants and fellowships, including others from NSF, the Ford Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He has co-authored books on voting patterns, civic education, legislative districting, public opinion, and statistics on American politics.




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