To give an idea of a some of the many aspects of ballot design that we’re working on, I have a couple ballot images for you, from Larry Norden‘s keynote presentation at the EVT conference recently. The problem illustrated is that the first contest is spread across two columns, which looks like it might be two separate contests. As a result, a voter might make a selection in the box at lower right, and make a selection in the box at middle top — in which case neither vote would count. In this picture, the big red arrow shows how to improve this ballot, by putting all of the candidates in one box in one column.

BrennanBetterBallot1

Fair enough. In our ballot design studio, this error probably won’t even be an option — contests wouldn’t be spread across a column break or page break except in exceptional cases with really long candidate lists.

The second picture is of an ideal re-design of the same ballot, using some principles from the design standards that AIGA developed for the EAC. In addition to re-organizing the content, the layout has several usability improvements. The use of color and shading highlights the separation between contests and separation of groups of contests. It’s much easier to see at a glance that there are 8 contests in 3 categories. Likewise, the straight-party voting option is clearly like a contest, rather than being in the same box with the instructions to the voter.

BrennanBetterBallot2

Again, in our ballot design studio, we’re developing design templates that adopt the use of color and shading in a similar way, rather than having uniform black text and thin black lines on a plain white background.

So what’s the point? This is the easy stuff! In the next few postings about ballot design, we’ll show how the design improvements illustrated here are just the tip of the iceberg. The phrase “the devil is in the details” does not even begin to describe the situation! Stay tuned.

— EJS