With the turn of a new year comes a new political season. While long poll lines and questions about voting machines are likely to return, a new voting technology could change the way voters cast their ballots.
For 10 years, a Clemson University computer science professor, Juan Gilbert, and his students have been developing a voting program called Prime III. According to Gilbert, the first generation of voting systems was done with mechanical equipment and paper; the second generation used computers; and we are now in the third generation, where voting devices such as Prime III are multimodal.
Prime III makes full use of speech capabilities, allowing hands-free and eyes-free interaction, providing the disabled a secure, independent way to vote. The voting technology can be downloaded to a tablet, computer or smartphone. It allows voters to cast ballots by speaking into a microphone or tapping a touch-screen. Headphones and audio instructions are also included for voters who have trouble reading.
The Prime III software is available for free, and several manufacturers, including the manufacturer of the touch-screen machines currently used statewide in South Carolina, are considering using it, according to Gilbert.
The system will be used in a few select voting precincts in Wisconsin on April 1, marking the second time it is being used in a binding statewide election. The first time was in 2012 during the presidential primaries in Oregon at several rehabilitation and independent-living centers.
Prime III can also be used are through Gilbert’s other voting systems: Balloting and Televoting. The Balloting system enables voters to fill out their ballots online or through their phone. Once the ballot is completed, the voter will get a QR code that can be scanned at a Prime III-enabled voting machine to speed up the voting process. According to Gilbert, the Balloting system is already being implemented in several next-generation voting machines.
Televoting allows military and overseas voters to fill out their ballots through Prime III online and have it printed back at their home precinct. The system will be introduced this year through a pilot program in Okaloosa County, Fla.