Ballot Design Samples
Ballot Design Samples
Ballot Design Samples

This collection of sample ballots highlights common ballot design challenges and AIGA Design for Democracy's solutions.

  • Past examples demonstrate ballot design concerns.
  • Proposed examples show solutions based on Design for Democracy/U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) guidelines.

Past examples

U.S. election ballots come in thousands of varieties, and many factors influence their differences.

  • U.S. Election administration is decentralized, and ballot production is managed by election officials at state, county and local levels.
  • Recent ballots exist in various media: paper for hand counting; lever machine; punch-card paper for machine counting (as used in Palm Beach in 2000); optical-scan paper for machine counting (as used for lottery tickets and standardized tests); and direct recording electronic (DRE), e.g., touchscreen (like banking ATMs). Most jurisdictions are now using optical-scan and/or DRE ballots.
  • Officials responsible for the design of ballots rely on outside vendors for ballot layout and counting equipment. Popular vendors of proprietary voting systems include Hart Intercivic, ES&S and Sequoia. Each offers several machine variations. Open-source voting systems, such as that of the Open Voting Consortium, are also emerging.
  • Ballots must accommodate national, state, county and extremely local content.

Thus, the following collection of samples is in no way comprehensive, but rather seeks to demonstrate the range that exists.


From Election Administration Reports, courtesy of Richard G. Smolka, editor


Sample state and local ballots from 1996 through 2004 (link), organized by state, provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)


Controversial butterfly layout for punch-card voting equipment, courtesy of the Indianapolis Star


Controversial ballots (link), collected by the Brennan Center for Justice


Common design mistakes compiled by AIGA Design for Democracy, based on actual November 2004 ballots; designed by Drew Davies and Joe Sparano, Oxide Design Co.

 For historical perspective, see:

Proposed examples

Design for Democracy is currently helping election officials throughout the country to adopt AIGA's top 10 election design guidelines and utilize the full ballot and polling place design guidelines and detailed samples created on behalf of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), on which the following ballot samples are based.

ballot sample image

AIGA Design for Democracy’s

based on Design for Democracy and EAC guidelines, adapted by Drew Davies and Joe Sparano, Oxide Design Co.

AIGA Design for Democracy’s

based on Design for Democracy and EAC guidelines, adapted by Drew Davies and Joe Sparano, Oxide Design Co.

See also:

  • Design for Democracy's election design gallery, which includes before and after examples from across the county where ballots have evolved with the benefit of professional design.
  • The official AIGA/EAC optical-scan ballot samples including single-color printing and dual-language options.
  • The official AIGA/EAC DRE ballot design samples including full-face (single screen) and rolling (multiple touchscreens) options.

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