Human Factors 
Potomac Chapter

HFES National Webinar

  • 05 Dec 2014
  • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

The Butterfly Legacy: How Badly Designed Voting Systems Threaten Election Integrity
Presented by Mike Byrne, Rice University

Friday, December 5
9:00–10:30 a.m. Pacific
10:00–11:30 a.m. Mountain
11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Central
12:00–1:30 p.m. Eastern

HFES Members: This webinar is free! Registration is available at
Nonmembers: HFES invites you to attend this webinar. The registration fee is $125. Nonmember registration is available at Payment by VISA, MasterCard, and American Express is secure and easy.
Nonmember Students: The registration fee is $40. Nonmember student registration is available at As with nonmember registration, payment can be made by VISA, MasterCard, or American Express.


The 2000 U.S. presidential election brought issues of voting system usability to the public consciousness via the "butterfly ballot" and ubiquitous media coverage of hanging chads. This prompted federal legislation that led to widespread adoption of electronic voting systems. However, fundamental questions about voting system usability were not answered before this sweeping change. Just how usable were the technologies being replaced? How do new electronic systems compare with those systems? How do security concerns about electronic voting factor in?

Data now exist that help to answer some of these questions, but the data also raise serious concerns about the systems we use to participate in our democracy. Error rates larger than the margin of victory in some races appear at multiple points in the voting process, and this problem is likely to persist and possibly worsen without concerted efforts from multiple sources, including the human factors/ergonomics community.

In this webinar, Mike Byrne will review some infamous user-interface disasters in U.S. elections, discuss some of the historical and political forces that shape the constraints on elections, and describe some of the research results on usability and election systems. He will finish by describing STAR-Vote, a proposed voting system designed via cooperation among election officials, computer security specialists, usability researchers, and experts on election auditing.

This webinar is suitable for all experience levels.


Mike Byrne is a professor of psychology and computer science at Rice University. His primary research areas are concerned with the usability of technological systems and mathematical/computational models of human cognition and performance with a strong interest in understanding human error. This includes basic scientific work on theories of human cognition and performance as well as applied usability testing efforts, particularly in the area of voting, about which he has been publishing for nearly a decade. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Mike received a BS in engineering and a BA in psychology in 1991 from the University of Michigan. The Georgia Institute of Technology awarded him an MS in psychology in 1993, an MS in computer science in 1995, and a PhD in experimental psychology in 1996. He is an associate editor of Human Factors and has served on its editorial board. He is also associate editor for Cognitive Science and has served on the editorial board of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making.

Additional Reading

Everett, S. P., Byrne, M. D., & Greene, K. K. (2006). Measuring the usability of paper ballots: Efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 50th Annual Meeting (pp. 2547–2551). Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

If you are an HFES member, all webinar recordings and handouts will be available at within 5 business days of the presentation. If you are not an HFES member and you register for a webinar, you will be e-mailed a copy of the webinar recording and handouts also within 5 business days.

 If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact the web master, Jack Laveson

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software