Voter turnout in the United States is abysmal, far worse than it is in most other developed countries. In 2014, U.S. voter participation was the lowest it had been in more than 70 years—with less than half the population voting in 43 states. In general elections, for which voter turnout is typically highest, there are still some 88 million adults in the United States who are eligible to vote, but don’t. Even among those who do vote, an alarming number of ballots don’t end up getting counted. In each of the presidential elections that took place between 1992 and 2004, according to a 2005 analysis in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Politics, more than 2 million votes were cast but never tallied—totaling nearly 9 million votes that went uncounted because they were blank, marked incorrectly, or otherwise spoiled. “It’s a wicked problem,” says Whitney Quesenbery, a co-director at the Center for Civic Design. “We’ve always been in this battle between good, fast, and easy—but still accurate, reliable, accessible and all those other good things voting needs to be.”
… Implementing ballot-design changes, no matter how seemingly straightforward, is complicated. “Often ballot change requires legislation, and that’s part of what makes it so slow,” says Quesenbery, of the Center for Civic Design, “even when you have elected officials who understand that we are hurting voters when we don’t fix things.”
… The consensus among elections officials and voter advocates is that paper ballots remain essential in 2016. Some jurisdictions use paper for in-person votes as well as absentee ballots, and many electronic voting machines print out a paper receipt. Electronic voting carries its own set of design challenges, though, on top of the question of what happens to the voting record if a system fails or is hacked. That’s in part because so many electronic systems are already outdated. In this year’s general election, 42 states will use machines that are more than a decade old, says Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. In other words, people are voting on systems that have been around since everybody was using flip phones. Now, in the age of the smartphone, voters often try to swipe from one screen to the next, and have difficulty with “next” or “back” buttons on old machines.
“Hopefully as we start replacing these machines we’ll have better ballots, but the federal certification standards for these machines haven’t caught up to where we should be,” Norden said. “Some vendors have voluntarily [made upgrades], but they’re still not as good as they should be—and really we should have certification standards that require more flexibility.”
Full Article: Designing a Better Ballot – The Atlantic.