Whitney Quesenbery knows a well-designed ballot when she sees it: lower-case letters, left-aligned text, a clean sans-serif font. Quesenbery has been assessing ballot design for nearly two decades. Los Angeles County’s is one of the best she has seen. “Look at those instructions,” she says, admiring the ballot’s simple wording and standout color. “They’re beautiful.” A co-founder of the Center for Civic Design, Quesenbery regularly advises election boards on best practices for their ballots. Some places, like Los Angeles, have incorporated the design principles espoused by the center. But, Quesenbery says, many other counties are stuck using ballots that look as if they came out of the last century. “There are still people voting on pre-2000 voting systems,” she says. “I do.”Full Article: Why Are So Many Election Ballots Confusing? : NPR.
This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on November 14, 2018.
Well designed ballot layouts allow voters to make their intentions clear; badly designed ballots invite voters to make mistakes. This year, the Florida Senate race may be decided by a misleading ballot layout—a layout that violated the ballot design recommendations of the Election Assistance Commission. In Miami, Florida in the year 2000, the badly designed “butterfly ballot” misled over 2000 voters who intended to vote for Al Gore, to throw away their vote. (That’s a strong statement, but it’s backed up by peer-reviewed scientific analysis.) In Sarasota, Florida in the year 2006, in a Congressional race decided by 369 votes, over 18,000 voters failed to vote in that race, almost certainly because of a badly designed touch-screen ballot layout. In Broward County, Florida in the year 2018, it appears that a bad optical-scan ballot design caused over 26,000 voters to miss voting in the Senate race, where the margin of victory (as of this writing, not yet final) is 12,562 votes.
As Virginia prepares for the November midterm elections, the State Board of Elections approved a number of policy changes aimed at clarifying the voting process and making ballots easier to understand. On March 23, the board met for the first time since the Northam administration was sworn in. The panel unanimously voted to roll out new ballot standards for the Nov. 6 general election. The goal of the standards is clarification – including allowing candidates to use nicknames, more readable fonts and user-friendly instructions on the ballots. Each ballot will include instructions on how to vote. It will also state, “If you want to change a vote or if you have made a mistake, ask an election worker for another ballot. If you make marks on the ballot besides filling in the oval, your votes may not be counted.”Full Article: Virginia works to improve voting process before midterm elections - WRIC.
Virginia: After irregular ballot helped decide a Virginia House election, state aims to make ballot more clear | The Virginian-Pilot
It was the ballot seen around the world. One voter’s flawed attempt to be counted in Newport News in December helped decide a pivotal Virginia House election and political control of the chamber. The bubbles for both candidates, David Yancey and Shelly Simonds, were filled in, but Simonds’ had a slash through it. A court had to decide the voter’s intent, which tied the race and setup the infamous name drawing out of the bowl. But had the voter simply asked for another ballot after his or her mistake, the whole thing could have been avoided.Full Article: After irregular ballot helped decide a Virginia House election, state aims to make ballot more clear | Politics | pilotonline.com.
Election Day 2017 seems to have gone smoothly. There were few contests of major consequence and turnout was low – with Virginia the most notable exception. Election integrity – the extent to which the outcome of the election matches the will of the voters – was not an issue in the news. Things could, however, be different in 2018. Concern over election integrity could become amplified if turnout is high and margins close. Given the stakes in the 2018 midterms – now less than a year away – and other concerns such as widespread reports about Russian hacking, now is the time when election officials must begin the critical work of ensuring the integrity of the vote. When most people think about threats to election integrity, security and fraud are the primary concerns. For example, were the ballots or the election totals hacked? Were ballot boxes stuffed? Were there ballots cast by people who were not eligible to vote?Full Article: Designing better ballots.
THE Fiji Labour Party says the current ballot paper design withholds information that will assist voters in easily identifying the candidate of their choice. Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry made the comment in response to a Tebbutt-Times Poll on the ballot papers that showed majority of people prefer having photos of the candidates alongside their candidate number on the ballot paper. “FLP’s position is that the ballot paper should include the names of the candidates with their photographs and their party acronyms and symbols,” he said. “It is wrong to withhold vital information which would assist the voters to cast their votes with confidence.Full Article: Parties want ballot paper change - Fiji Times Online.
Netherlands: With 28 parties running, Dutch voters have to use these really huge ballots | The Washington Post
The Dutch are voting, and much of the world is watching to see whether far-right populist Geert Wilders will come out on top. But Wilders and his party, the Party for Freedom (PVV), are far from the only force in the election. A record 28 parties are competing for the 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament, known as the Tweede Kamer. In practical terms, this has a very obvious effect on voting day: The Dutch ballots are enormous. So enormous, in fact, that people can’t stop sharing photos of them.Full Article: With 28 parties running, Dutch voters have to use these really huge ballots - The Washington Post.
The ballots are being recounted, but it’s not for the presidential election. This time it’s for Mobile County’s pay as you go measure. It was the last measure on the ballot last Tuesday. And according to Election Systems and Software, the company that runs the ballot machines, a wrong test pattern was used to program the machines. That resulted in 99.7 percent of votes favoring the measure. While many voters called in with concerns and filed complaints, it took a few days to figure out exactly what happened. The company has since taken accountability. “We obviously made a mistake originally for election day, we regret that. We’ve gone back in we’ve corrected the error there in the personal program, we’ve marked ballots we’ve double checked, we’ve triple checked, we’ve run test we’re confident today is 100 percent accurate,” said Mark Kelley with Election Systems and Software.Full Article: Mobile Co. Still Working to Recount Results After Error.
The Mobile County Probate Court website still shows that the County’s “pay as you go” construction measure passed with 99.7 percent of the vote. “This was like the perfect storm,” said Judge Don Davis, Mobile Probate Court. But as we’ve learned that’s incorrect. Judge Davis had to wait to figure it all out before he could say there was a problem. … At least 12 complaints were filed with the State Secretary’s Office over these results, leaving Judge Davis in the hot seat. But this Monday a representative for the voting machine is taking the blame. “This issue an issue Election Systems & Software performed, it’s a human issue. The machines counted as they were told to count and the oval was not in the right place,” said Kathy Rogers, Election Systems & Software. Essentially the wrong test ballot was used for the machines to count up the votes.Full Article: Mobile Co. Officials Admit Election Counting Error.
When a voter heads to the polls, any number of factors may influence how she casts her vote: party affiliation, her impression of the candidates — or even the design of the ballot itself. The visual layout of a ballot can have a surprising effect on a voter’s decision. And anyone who recalls the 2000 presidential election, which drew national attention to some confusing elements of the Florida ballot, can tell you that designers don’t always get it right. So, who are the people designing the ballots? That depends on where you’re asking. “There is no federal ballot design authority,” Dana Chisnell tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. Chisnell is co-director of the Center for Civic Design, a nonprofit aimed at developing best practices for election materials. “How ballots get designed is really a combination of local election officials and what their printers can do, if it’s a print-based ballot, and what the computers can do, if it’s an electronic voting system.”Full Article: The Art Of The Vote: Who Designs The Ballots We Cast? | KTEP.
This Nov. 8, even if you manage to be registered in time and have the right identification, there is something else that could stop you from exercising your right to vote. The ballot. Specifically, the ballot’s design. Bad ballot design gained national attention almost 16 years ago when Americans became unwilling experts in butterflies and chads. The now-infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, which interlaced candidate names along a central column of punch holes, was so confusing that many voters accidentally voted for Patrick Buchanan instead of Al Gore. We’ve made some progress since then, but we still likely lose hundreds of thousands of votes every election year due to poor ballot design and instructions. In 2008 and 2010 alone, almost half a million people did not have their votes counted due to mistakes filling out the ballot. Bad ballot design also contributes to long lines on election day. And the effects are not the same for all people: the disenfranchised are disproportionately poor, minority, elderly and disabled.Full Article: Disenfranchised by Bad Design | ProPublica.
The San Diego County Registrar of Voters office and city of San Diego leaders Wednesday confirmed that a design flaw with the ballot could impact voting in next month’s election. Officials say if voters use a felt-tip pen, or a similar type of pen, to fill in “Yes” on Measure E, the ink can bleed through to the other side, marking the “No” bubble for Measure K. Registrar of Voters Michael Vu “has acknowledged the issue and agreed to manually examine all the ballots while they are being counted, but voters should be informed of proactive measures they can take to ensure their votes are cast and counted as intended before a problem occurs.” San Diego resident Kaia Los Huertos supports Measure K, which would require all election processes for elected city offices to consist of a primary election in June and a runoff election in November for the top two candidates.Full Article: Registrar of Voters acknowledges ballot design flaw - 10News.com KGTV ABC10 San Diego.
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.”Full Article: Designing a Better Ballot - The Atlantic.
California: More than 235,000 votes didn’t count in June’s U.S. Senate race, and some think ballot designs are to blame | Los Angeles Times
A bumper crop of U.S. Senate candidates and the resulting challenge in designing ballots may be why more than 235,000 California voters had their selections for the race rejected in June. “Our research shows a clear problem with complicated ballot designs,” said Philip Muller, an election data analyst whose firm creates online voter guides. Muller and partner Davit Avagyan sorted through election results from all but six California counties to see how many “over-votes” were cast in the U.S. Senate race — ballots on which voters chose two or more candidates. Because elections officials have no way of knowing which of those candidates was the preferred choice, those Senate votes weren’t counted. Election officials warned this past spring of potential confusion with a ballot listing 34 candidates who were in the race to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer. Under the state’s top-two primary rules, only Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez advanced to the Nov. 8 general election.
Voting Blogs: First-in-the-nation course on election design | Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell/electionlineWeekly
If you want to bring out your inner election designer, or just learn how identify good and bad election design, there’s a new opportunity designed just for you. As part of the first-in-the-nation Certificate in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota, we are really proud to be teaching the first-in-the-nation course on election design. The program is the brainchild of Doug Chapin, aiming at current and future election administrators and anyone interested in civic engagement. The course is entirely online, and built on the idea that adults learn best by doing. Through small, weekly assignments students practice new skills with real election materials. We will be there with students the whole way, with group discussions and collaborative reviews because we’ve seen that the best ideas happen when there’s a place to brainstorm and people to do it with. Usability testing will help students learn from their own voters (and to see how to make it part of all of their work).Full Article: electionlineWeekly.
Chaos has descended upon the nation’s polling booths, with voters struggling to understand changes to above-the-line voting on the Senate voting paper. New Senate voting rules, introduced in March as a way to stymie the smaller parties, mean that voters must number at least six boxes above the line on the Senate ballot paper for their vote to count. However, as the Australian Electoral Commission admitted yesterday, voters who vote 1 above the line will also have their vote counted, provided there is nothing else wrong with the ballot paper. Confusion has been heightened by a new online tool, created by the AEC, which allows voters to “practise’’ their Senate vote ahead of polling day.Full Article: Federal election 2016: Number six above the line. Confused?.
Campaigns routinely spend millions of dollars on get-out-the-vote drives, but it’s money down the drain if voters can’t figure out the ballot. That’s where Drew Davies comes in. The college art major has parlayed his knack for graphic design into a career as one of the nation’s premier ballot fix-it guys. His job description may come as a surprise to those who assume that the federal government has ironed out the kinks since the 2000 presidential election uproar in Florida. As Mr. Davies can attest, there are still causes for concern. He sees ballots jammed with races, impossibly tiny print and fill-in bubbles that don’t quite align with candidates’ names. “It’s not just about prettying things up,” said Mr. Davies, who founded Oxide Design in 2001 after earning a fine arts degree from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Design is affecting our democracy. It’s affecting your lives. Look at the election in 2000: Bad design affected your life.” His work with the nonprofit Center for Civic Design to create 10 pocket-sized field guides for state and local election officials has been honored by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, which will showcase the pamphlets as part of an exhibit starting Sept. 30.Full Article: Ballot design pro helps prevent election snafus - Washington Times.
California: How California’s U.S. Senate ballot could cause problems for the June 7 primary | Los Angeles Times
If elections officials could send just one message to California’s 17.2 million registered voters about the U.S. Senate primary in June, it would probably be this: Read the instructions carefully. “It’s not necessarily intuitive on how to properly mark this ballot,” said Kammi Foote, registrar of voters for Inyo County. And a mistake could keep a ballot from counting. On primary day, the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer will feature 34 candidates. Only four of those candidates have received appreciable support in public polling so far, and five will appear at the first Senate debate Monday night. But the full field is larger than any single roster of statewide contenders since the colossal list of 135 candidates who ran in the 2003 special election that recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis. (To make the ballot, candidates must pay about $3,500 or collect 10,000 signatures.)Full Article: How California's U.S. Senate ballot could cause problems for the June 7 primary - LA Times.
Lots of Republicans voting in today’s Ohio primary are confused, and understandably so. The Republican presidential candidates’ names are listed twice on the ballot, once under the heading “For Delegates-at-Large and Alternates-at-Large” and again under “For District Delegates and District Alternates.” If this weren’t enough, different candidates’ names appear under the first and second contests on some Ohio ballots. Mike Huckabee and/or Rick Santorum, both of whom have withdrawn, will appear on the “District Delegates” contest in some congressional districts but not others (see p. 7 of this directive). What makes this a real head-scratcher is that the state’s Republican primary is winner-take-all, with the highest vote-getter getting all of Ohio’s 66 delegates. The Secretary of State’s office will reportedly release vote totals for both the “Delegates-at-Large” and “District Delegates” contests, but the state party says that it plans to consider only the at-large delegate vote in determining who gets Ohio’s delegates. And the “District Delegates” contest will appear at the top of page on at least some ballots (like this one), with the “Delegates-at-Large” contest – the one that matters – further down on the left side. This problem is reminiscent of problematic ballot formats in past elections, like Florida’s 2006 election for the 13th Congressional District, California’s 2003 recall election, and even the infamous butterfly ballot in Florida’s 2000 presidential election. It’s possible that some voters will inadvertently fail to cast a vote that counts.Full Article: Ohio’s Confusing Republican Ballot | Election Law Blog.
Every Republican primary voter in Ohio will have two opportunities to vote for president, in a ballot twist that only escalates the potential confusion caused by the party’s large and fractious field of candidates. GOP ballots for the March 15 primary feature two boxes for president: one for designating an at-large presidential delegate and one for designating a district delegate. It’s a carry-over from a time when Ohio’s Republican vote was divided proportionally, rather than in the winner-take-all fashion being used in 2016. The two boxes raise obvious questions: Do voters get two votes? Can conflicted voters split their vote, or do votes for two candidates cancel each other out? If only one of the two boxes is filled in, does the person’s vote still count? Ohio never changed a requirement that both boxes be listed, and the secretary of state’s office says both will also tallied. But the Ohio Republican Party says only one will count.Full Article: Ohio Republican voters get 2 votes for president, only 1 counts | WDTN.