These subtle cues at the polls can reduce voter suspicion that an election is rigged

Lines are often a sign of other problems.
Lines are often a sign of other problems.
Image: Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk
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Over the past two months Republican candidate Donald Trump has made numerous references to the possibility that the upcoming US election will be rigged. The FBI is reportedly investigating the possibility of Russian hackers targeting voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona. And a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 46% of American voters think that voter fraud occurs very or somewhat often.

Voter confidence in the integrity of the November election results may be uneven, but researchers have found a few simple steps can help address that.

A study (pdf) carried out during the 2008 general election in New Mexico found that interactions with poll workers were extremely important to voter confidence. Only 20% of voters who thought poll workers were unhelpful were very confident that their vote was counted accurately.

“When voters have problems voting such as making a mistake on a ballot, having difficulty understanding the instructions, being unable find their polling place, having to deal with unhelpful poll workers, or perhaps having to wait too long in line, voters are likely to feel less confident that their vote will be counted,” wrote the study’s authors, Lonna Rae Atkeson of the University of New Mexico, R. Michael Alvarez of the California Institute of Technology, and Thad Hall of the University of Utah,

They recommend pre-election training of election workers to ensure that poll workers are knowledgeable, polite, and helpful.

Voters who found the ballot confusing or too long were also less likely to be confidence that their vote was counted accurately. Clear and easy absentee instructions are also vital. The study found that absentee voters who thought that the instructions for filling out and returning their ballot were hard to follow were less likely to be confident that their vote would count.

The researchers’ suggestions include clear signage and directions to polling locations, sufficient parking, easy movement of voters to ensure privacy, adequate access for people with disabilities, and short lines on election day. While longer lines don’t directly lower voter confidence, the study found that longer lines might suggest other administrative issues that would result in a decline in voter confidence.

These steps might seem simple, but ultimately a poor experience casting ballots on election day can reduce voter confidence by 10%.