November 4, 2008
For election day, I want to point to some fantastic work exploring how to improve the design of voting ballots and other material related to elections. Marcia Lausen's book, "Design for Democracy: Ballot + Election Design", part of the related AIGA Design for Democracy project does the job. She presents case studies, showing problematic designs and very clear and simple redesigns that addresses their problems. The lead example is to look at the infamous butterfly ballot of 2000, and she makes the case very clearly that while the constraints inherent in these problems make for a hard design problem, it is still possible to have a clear solution. She then goes further to express general design principles that can be applied to a broad range of specific situations. And she goes beyond just ballots, looking at voter registration, election administration, and more general election design issues.
Unfortunately, the reality of our voting landscape makes it so that the vendors don't act like they care much about these issues, and the politicians that manage elections don't seem to have the skills or resources to implement good solutions. But hopefully, the clear direction and advice that comes with this book will help.