Ballot and polling place design guidelines

The following best practices report was created by AIGA Design for Democracy on behalf of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). It contains guidelines and samples for the design of ballots—optical scan and touchscreen (direct-recording electronic or DRE)—and polling place voter information materials. Legislation, design principles and extensive research with voters, experts, election officials, poll workers and voting equipment providers heavily inform these resources. The report also summarizes research findings and offers insights about design planning and implementation. For summary recommendations, view the top 10 election design guidelines. For more information about the project, view our EAC project case study. For help implementing the guidelines in this report, please visit Government officials: Get help.

Full best practices report

Report by section

Select desired report section(s) 1–8 and download. Sample and image files are offered further below.

  1. Introduction
    Provides an overview of the report scope and research methods; advises on how to use the report.
  2. Voter information materials
    Includes planning tools, best practices and sample, HAVA-compliant, printable files for polling place posters, tabletop information and more, in one or two languages.
    Select desired material samples from the table below.
  3. Optical scan ballots
    Includes planning tools, best practices and design guidelines covering the four basic content areas of a ballot (election information, ballot instructions, ballot navigation and voting questions); provides sample designs and specifications for ballots in one or two languages, and one or two colors.
    Select desired ballot samples and images from the table below.
  4. Full-face DRE ballots
    Includes planning tools, best practices and design guidelines covering the four basic content areas of a ballot (election information, ballot instructions, ballot navigation and voting questions); provides sample designs and specifications for ballots in one or two colors.
    Select desired ballot samples from the table below.
  5. Rolling DRE ballots
    Note: Sample ballots illustrated in this section are more conceptual than those provided for optical scan ballots, as variation across touchscreen voting equipment is much broader.
    Includes planning tools and best practices; describes the sequence of ballot screens and interactions required to deliver content and support tasks in the voting process (select language, vote, review, cast); offers sample screens and specifications.
    Select ballot samples featuring example screens and states from the table below.
  6. Research report: Nebraska pilot test
    Offers insights resulting from the real-election use of draft optical scan ballot and polling place material designs—from production process to Election Day.
  7. Research report: Nine research events
    Summary of the nine other research activities comprising the user-centered process that helped ground best practice recommendations in legislative, budgetary, technical and voter realities.
  8. Appendix
    Introduces author/contractor AIGA Design for Democracy and all report contributors.

Sample and image files by section

For report sections 2–5, files containing sample materials and ballot designs are provided for viewing and editing. For section 3 (optical scan ballots), image files containing instructional illustrations and icons are also provided.

All sample files are available in both PDF and InDesign formats, image files are in TIFF and Illustrator formats. Election officials may wish to view PDFs and TIFFs. Only professional designers should seek InDesign (INDD) and Illustrator (EPS) files.

Designers will need InDesign and Illustrator CS2 (or higher) software for Mac or PC. Ideally, designers will have access to the Univers font family (Light, Bold for ballots; Roman, Black for voter information materials); other sans serif fonts may be substituted. Software and fonts may be purchased at www.adobe.com. (Note: AIGA members receive a discount on Adobe products.)

Section 2: Voter information materials
Note: 80 samples are offered. For information regarding their display, printing instructions and fulfillment of HAVA mandates, please refer to report section 2, pages 2.6–2.7.

All voter information materials as PDFs (2.6 MB, ZIP)
All voter information materials as InDesign CS2 files (49.2 MB, ZIP)

Material sampleLanguagePDF file(s)See report page(s):
Voters' Bill of Rights

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

010_E_Rights.pdf
010_ES_Rights.pdf
010_EC_Rights.pdf
2.23
2.57
2.47
Voters' Bill of Rights (binder format)

English
English/Spanish

011_E_Rights_Binder.pdf
011_ES_Rights_Binder.pdf
2.26
2.50
General information
(voting violations)

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

020_E_Info.pdf
020_ES_Info.pdf
020_EC_Info.pdf
2.24
2.58
2.48
Voting violations and
penalties (binder format)

English
English/Spanish

021_E_Info_Binder.pdf
021_ES_Info_Binder.pdf
2.27
2.51
Special voting rules

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

030_E_SpecialRules.pdf
030_ES_SpecialRules.pdf
030_EC_SpecialRules.pdf
2.25
2.59
2.49
Voting instructions

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

040_E_Instructions.pdf
040_ES_Instructions.pdf
040_EC_Instructions.pdf
2.28
2.60
2.52
Voting instructions
(booth format)

English
English/Spanish

041_E_Instructions_Booth.pdf
041_ES_Instructions_Booth.pdf
2.28
2.52
Voting instructions
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

042_E_Instructions_Tabletop.pdf
042_ES_Instructions_Tabletop.pdf
2.29
2.53
Sample ballot
(door format)

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

051_E_Sample_Door.pdf
051_ES_Sample_Door.pdf
051_EC_Sample_Door.pdf
2.6
2.6
2.6
Sample ballot
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

052_E_Sample_Tabletop.pdf
052_ES_Sample_Tabletop.pdf
2.31
2.55
Sample ballot
(wall format)

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

053_E_Sample_Wall.pdf
053_ES_Sample_Wall.pdf
053_EC_Sample_Wall.pdf
2.59
2.59
2.59
Precinct identification

English
English/Spanish

070_E_Precinct.pdf
070_ES_Precinct.pdf
2.16
2.40
Vote here

English
English/Spanish

080_E_VoteHere.pdf
080_ES_VoteHere.pdf
2.13
2.37
Election official stickers

English
English/Spanish

090_E_Pollworkers.pdf
090_ES_Pollworkers.pdf
2.17
2.41
Accessible entrance
(left directional)

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

100_E_AccessL.pdf
100_ES_AccessL.pdf
100_EC_AccessL.pdf
2.18
2.62
2.42
Accessible entrance
(right directional)

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

101_E_AccessR.pdf
101_ES_AccessR.pdf
101_EC_AccessR.pdf
2.18
2.62
2.42
Restricted entrance

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

110_E_NoEnter.pdf
110_ES_NoEnter.pdf
110_EC_NoEnter.pdf
2.19
2.63
2.43
No cell phone

English
English/Spanish

120_E_NoCell.pdf
120_ES_NoCell.pdf
2.19
2.43
Information

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

130_E_Info.pdf
130_ES_Info.pdf
130_EC_Info.pdf
2.20
2.63
2.44
Information
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

132_E_Info_Tabletop.pdf
132_ES_Info_Tabletop.pdf
2.22
2.46
Vote by paper ballot (with ovals or, alternatively, arrows)

English
English
English/Spanish
English/Spanish
English/Chinese
English/Chinese

140_E_OpScan.pdf
140_E_OpScanAlt.pdf
140_ES_OpScan.pdf
140_ES_OpScanAlt.pdf
140_EC_OpScan.pdf
140_EC_OpScanAlt.pdf
2.20
2.20
2.64
2.64
2.44
2.44
Vote by paper ballot
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

142_E_OpScan_Tabletop.pdf
142_ES_OpScan_Tabletop.pdf
2.22
2.46
Vote by touchscreen

English
English/Spanish
English/Chinese

150_E_Touchscreen.pdf
150_ES_Touchscreen.pdf
150_EC_Touchscreen.pdf
2.21
2.64
2.45
Vote by touchscreen
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

152_E_Touchscreen_Tabletop.pdf
152_ES_Touchscreen_Tabletop.pdf
2.22
2.46
Turn in ballot here

English
English/Spanish

160_E_ReturnBallot.pdf
160_ES_ReturnBallot.pdf
2.21
2.45
Return ballot
(tabletop format)

English
English/Spanish

162_E_ReturnBallot_Tabletop.pdf
162_ES_ReturnBallot_Tabletop.pdf
2.19
2.43
Vote here banner
vertical

English
English/Spanish

170_E_BannerVertical.pdf
170_ES_BannerVertical.pdf
2.12
2.36
Vote here banner
horizontal

English
English/Spanish

180_E_BannerHoriz.pdf
180_ES_BannerHoriz.pdf
2.12
2.36

Section 3: Optical scan ballot samples and imagesNote: Please refer to the design specifications found in report section 3, pages 3.6–3.57 while working with samples and images.

All optical scan ballot samples as PDFs (1 MB, ZIP)

Ballot samplePDF file(s)See report page(s):
One language, one colorOpScan_1L_1Color.pdf3.30
One Asian language, one colorOpScan_1L_Asian.pdf3.32
One language, two colors ovalOpScan_1L_VersionA.pdf3.23–3.25
One language, two colors arrowOpScan_1L_VersionB.pdf3.26–3.28
Two languages, one colorOpScan_2L_1Color.pdf3.54
Two languages: Asian and English, one colorOpScan_2L_Asian.pdf3.56
Two languages, two colorsOpScan_2L_VersionA.pdf3.51–3.53

All optical scan ballot images as TIFF files (764 KB, ZIP)
All optical scan ballot images as Illustrator CS2 files (2.6 MB, ZIP)

ImageColor or
Language
TIF file(s)See report page(s):
Icon to call attention (exclamation point)Black
Cyan (Blue)
Icon-Attention_Black.tif
Icon-Attention_Blue.tif
3.10
3.14
Icon for “continue” (arrow)BlackIcon-Arrow.tif3.12
Illustration of making selection with ovalN/AIllustration-VersionA_Selection.tif3.10
Illustration of writing in name beside ovalEnglish
English-Spanish
Asian
English-Asian
Illustration-VersionA_Write_In_1L_English.tif
Illustration-VersionA_Write_In_2L_Spanish.tif
Illustration-VersionA_Write_In_1L_Asian.tif
Illustration-VersionA_Write_In_2L_Asian.tif
3.10
3.32
3.38
3.56
Illustration of making selection with arrowN/AIllustration-VersionB_Selection.tif3.26
Illustration of writing in name beside arrowEnglishIllustration-VersionB_Write_In.tif3.26
Illustration of turning in ballotEnglish
Asian
Illustration-VersionA_Sleeve_English.tif
Illustration-VersionA_Sleeve_Asian.tif
3.10
3.32

Section 4: Full-face DRE ballot samples
Note: Please refer to the design specifications found in report section 4, pages 4.6–4.25 while working with samples.

All full-face DRE ballot samples as PDFs (164 KB, ZIP)
All full-face DRE ballot samples as InDesign CS2 files (4.8 MB, ZIP)

Ballot samplePDF file(s)See report page(s):
One language, two colorsFullFace_1L_VersionA.pdf4.23
One language, one colorFullFace_1L_1Color.pdf4.24

Section 5: Rolling DRE ballot (touchscreen) samples
Note: These files contain 40 pages of screens and states supporting the range of tasks associated with touchscreen voting. These samples are more conceptual than those provided for optical scan ballots, as variation across touchscreen voting equipment is much broader. Please refer to the flow diagram provided in report section 5, pages 5.7–5.8, as well as to design specifications throughout this report section, while working with samples.

Rolling DRE ballot samples as PDF files (3.6 MB, ZIP)
Rolling DRE ballot samples as InDesign CS2 files (7.8 MB, ZIP)