Officials also allowed voters to
return their ballots by email and
fax. Election departments had few
procedures to handle this option;
election advocates raised concerns
about security. As intriguing as
these options are, they are probably
not ready for prime time.
March + April 2013
How Do We ‘Fix This’?
One of the recurring themes is that
you can’t fix just one aspect of elections. Even the best new voting systems, for example, will not live up to
their potential if voters don’t understand them and poll workers don’t
know how to use them on Election
Day. It’s tempting to say that the
whole problem should be turned
over to UX designers, but that’s not
the right answer, either. Everyone
who has a stake in elections should
have a place at the design table.
A few projects are trying to open
up the process and invite broader
• In Los Angeles County, Dean
Logan started the Voting System
Assessment Project (VSAP) to inves-
tigate a new voting system for the
largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to
“ensure the ‘people’ element is well
balanced with those of ‘technology’
and ‘regulations’” [ 9].
• In Travis County, Texas, a similar project to define a new voting
system is under way under Dana
• Oregon and Washington states
have used AIGA Election Design
Fellows to bring design and usability
expertise to improve their election
forms, ballots, and other materials.
• The ITIF Accessible Voting
Technology Initiative, funded by the
EAC, ran a series of design work-
shops, bringing together election
officials, voting system designers,
accessibility advocates, and design-
ers to work on removing barriers
to voting. Several of the concepts
that emerged led to research col-
laborations currently in progress.
One proposed that ballots could be
marked anywhere, on any device,
and then brought to a polling place
to be cast, using QR codes to count
them efficiently, combining the best
aspects of convenience voting with
the social “ceremony” (and security)
of voting in a polling place [ 10, 11].
ity, and accessibility experts, so that
all of the requirements are considered together.
3. Noel Ruyan’s voting experiences: http://www.
4. Better Ballots (2008) and Better Design, Better
Elections (2012). The Brennan Center; http://
5. Design Deficiencies and Lost. The Brennan
Center, 2011; http://www.brennancenter.org/con-tent/resource/design_deficiencies_and_lost_votes/
6. NY Daily News Editorial. Voters be damned.
(February 27, 2012); http://articles.nydailynews.
votes-ovals-ballots (or http://ow.ly/fK5rQ)
7. Farivar, C. Saving throw: Securing democracy
with stats, spreadsheets, and 10-sided dice. Ars
Technica (July 24, 2012); http://arstechnica.com/
8. Hall, T. and Alvarez, R.M. Defining the Barriers to
Political Participation for Individuals with Disabilities.
2012; http://elections.itif.org/reports/AV TI-001-Hall-
9. Voting System Assessment Project – Los
Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk;
10. Accessible Election Design Workshop – I TIF
Accessible Voting Technology Initiative; http://elec-tions.itif.org/projects/design-workshops/
11. 50 Ideas for More Accessible Elections: #26:
Mark ballots anywhere; http://www.openideo.com/
elections (or http://ow.ly/fK7B8)
12. OpenIDEO Accessible Election Design
Innovation Challenge; http://www.openideo.com/
13. Dirks, S. Vote while you shop: ‘Pop-up’ poll
sites sweep Iowa. NPR; http://www.wbur.org/
sites-sweep-iowa or http://ow.ly/fK5su
14. Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent; http://civ-icdesigning.org/fieldguides/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Whitney Quesenbery combines
an obsession with clear communication with her work bringing user
research insights to designing
products where people matter.
She is passionate about Usability
in Civic Life. Quesenbery has worked with election
officials on ballots and other election materials and
is a co-author of two influential reports that show
just how much design matters in elections.
© 2013 ACM 1072-5520/13/03 $15.00