If you're using one of the newer voting machines, your vote might be tamper-proof but there's no guarantee that it will actually count.

A new study by researchers at Rice University tested three voting machines and found that the systems only confirmed a little over half of all votes cast on them.

It's important that voting be as secure as possible and that systems prevent fraud. Three current systems have proven relatively tamper-proof and even allow users confirmation of their votes: Helios, which is web-based; Pret a Voter, which uses paper forms filled out by voters that are then scanned by a machine; and Santegrity II, a voting system that uses scanning and a special paper bubble ballot.

The study involved these voting systems and 37 U.S. citizens, all volunteers, 18 years and older. The subjects were diverse and the team felt they accurately represented the American voting public. All subjects had good vision, either with or without correction, as well as some computer expertise. The majority received college education while the rest had high school diplomas or GED equivalents.

Although the three systems solved security problems, they proved difficult to work with, which resulted in votes not being successfully counted.

"Overall, the tested systems were exceptionally difficult to use," says Claudia Acemyan, the study's lead author. "Our data revealed that success rates of voters casting ballots on these systems were extraordinarily low -- specifically, only 58 percent of ballots were successfully cast across all three systems."

Not only were the systems difficult to use, but they also took twice as long as traditional voting systems. Some required voters to learn the system, especially if they've never used it before. Unfamiliar equipment became a challenge.

Time-consuming voting leads to longer lines at the polls and frustrated voters who may decide not to vote at all. If the process takes too long and is too complicated, voters might not complete the voting process.

"When designing voting systems, you must keep the diverse population in mind -- otherwise you have the potential to disenfranchise voters and change election outcomes," says Acemyan. "Voting security is important, but there needs to be a way for it to happen behind the scenes. It should not require additional effort on the voter's behalf."

Acemyan and her researchers hope that in this upcoming election, officials will use their study for improving the voting process and systems while also keeping security a priority.

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