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Ballot Design – The Tiny Little (but Ultra-Important) New Design Niche

Big Improvements Still Needed for Local, State, / National Ballots
The importance of well-designed ballots for elections cannot be understated after the controversial ballot designs in Florida wreaked havoc in the 2000 presidential election. No one can forget the hanging chads ... the incomplete hole punches that were "dangling- and not counted as votes. The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a revealing report, titled "Better Ballots,- which highlights the problems of poor instructions and ballot confusion ( AIGA, the professional association for design, has been working behind the scenes to bring ballot design to the forefront of the national consciousness (
AIGA Design for Democracy has published national ballot design guidelines on behalf of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which were distributed to 6,000 local election officials. Design for Democracy continues to partner with local officials through training sessions, an election design fellowship, and individual ballot design consultations to improve election clarity and accuracy in an effort to increase voter confidence. Simply put, the goal is to make voting simpler for everyone, particularly the undereducated, the elderly, and those with reading disabilities.
Good Ballot Design Techniques
Here are just a few of the many ways to improve ballots, per AIGA Design for Democracy:
Ø Use lowercase letters. Mixed-case letters are more legible than ALL CAPITAL LETTERS because they are easier to recognize.
Ø Use big enough type. "Fine print- is hard to read and may intimidate or alienate voters. Use minimum type sizes: 12-point for optical scan; 25-point for touchscreens.
Ø Pick one sans-serif font. Avoid introducing new fonts, which require the eye to stop reading and adjust.  Sans-serif fonts with clean strokes (Arial, Univers, Verdana) are recommended for screen and for the quantity and variation of text found on paper ballots.
Ø Use accurate instructional illustrations. Visual instructions help low-literacy and general-population voters.  Photo images, which are difficult to shoot and reproduce well, are not recommended.  Illustrations must be accurate in their details to avoid misleading voters.
Ballot design is an opportunity for graphic designers to clarify and elucidate the voting process, and prevent voter confusion and election controversies.

By Neil Whitehall
Get Graphic Design Jobs, Contributing Editor

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