Election Design Field Guides

Field-researched, critical election design techniques to help ensure that every vote is cast as voters intend

AIGA Design for Democracy, led by AIGA national board member Drew Davies, has been working with election design experts Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery to distill best practices into a series of pocket-size handbooks called “Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent.”

Each book includes researched guidelines and examples about a specific and far-too-common election design problem. These guides will help county election officials, designers and advocates design ballots, write instructions for voters, test ballots for usability and create effective poll worker materials.

The form factor is designed for the busy county election official to pick up and within minutes learn useful, field-researched, critical ballot design techniques that help ensure that every vote is cast as voters intend. The guides were distributed to county election officials in 2012 and published online at the Center of Civic Design.

Election Design Field Guide Vol 1Designing usable ballots

We know now from several years of testing ballots all over the U.S. that implementing simple principles of design make it much more likely that voters are able to vote the way they intend. This Field Guide pulls 10 key guidelines from research conducted by AIGA’s Design for Democracy Project for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Learn what makes design in election signage, posters, ballots, and other print materials effective for all kinds of voters.

Election Design Field Guide Vol 2Writing instructions voters understand

It’s amazing the difference simple language can make for voters. In research conducted for the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Ginny Redish and Dana Chisnell found that when instructions on ballots were in plain language, voters made fewer mistakes and were more likely to vote the way they intended. The 10 guidelines in this Field Guide come mainly from the NIST research.

Election Design Field Guide Vol 3Testing ballots for usability

These guidelines for conducting usability tests of ballots comes from two main sources. The first is a group of documents put together into the Local Election Official (LEO) Usability Testing Kit developed by the Usability in Civic Life project by the Usability Professionals’ Association. The second source is the years of experience the team behind the Field Guides has conducting usability tests and working with counties and states to help them make ballots, forms, and web sites work better for all citizens.

Election Design Field Guide Vol 4Effective poll worker materials

One way to ensure voter intent is to make sure poll workers know what to do when. The clearer their training before Election Day and the job aids they have at hand on Election Day, the more likely everything will go smoothly. In research conducted for the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Dana Chisnell and Susan Becker learned that following some basic rules in writing procedures can help poll workers be efficient and effective.