Bedrock 4: Into the Ballot Design Studio
Continuing our Bedrock election story (see parts one, two, and three if you need to catch up), we find the County of Bedrock Board of Elections staff, including design guru Dana Chisel, in the “ballot design studio,” a dusty back room of the BBoE. Chisels in hand, staffers ponder the blank slate, or rather sandstone, of sample ballot slabs on easels. With the candidate and referendum filing periods closed and the election only a couple weeks away, it’s time to make the ballots.
Now, you might think that the ballot consists of the 3 items we know of – the race for Mayor, the race for Quarry Commission, and the question on the quarry fee. However, recall that each precinct in Bedrock County has a distinct set of districts. In this election, each precinct has a distinct ballot with a distinct set of contests corresponding to the districts that the precinct is part of. At a first cut, the contests by precinct are:
- Downtown-001: the contest for mayor, and the referendum on quarry fees;
- Quarrytown-002: the contests for mayor and quarry commissioner, and the referendum on quarry fees;
- QuarryCounty-003: the contest for quarry commissioner, and the referendum on quarry fees;
- County-004: the referendum on quarry fees.
You’ll note that only Town residents — in Precincts 1 or 2 — are entitled to vote for mayor, while residents of the Mineral District — in Precincts 2 or 4 — are the only voters entitled to for Quarry Commissioner. Last, all voters in the county are eligible to vote on county revenue issues such as taxes and fees imposed by the county.
That, plus the list of candidates and the text of the referendum, comprise what might be called the content of each of the 4 ballots, or the ballot configuration. But the ballots themselves need to be designed: the ballot items have to appear in some order, and the candidates likewise; the ballot items have to be arranged in some visual design, vertically or horizontally, with sufficient space between each, fitting the size of ballot slates that they will be etched on … and so on.
So, armed with chisels, the proverbial blank slate, and several tablets stating the legal requirements for contest and candidate order, design guru Dana Chisel marks out a prototype ballot containing all the requisite ballot content, laid out according to usability principles known since the Stone Age (left justified text, instructions separate from content, instructions with simple words along with pictures, and more). After a few tries and consultation with their boss Rocky, they have a design model for each of the 4 ballots. The next step are usability testing with volunteer voters, and using the results to create the final slabs that serve as the model for each ballot style. Then they’re ready for mass reproduction of ballots for the upcoming election — get those duplidactylsaurs into action!
Now, you might think that they’re ready for election day, but wait there’s more, including the preparation of pollbooks, and then early voting, and then eventually election day operations.
Next time: Pollbooks and Early Voting