Don’t make me read!
Less is more in information for voters
Dana Chisnell
@danachis
@ChadButterfly
page 27
King
County
2004
read easily?
navigate?
identify
sections?
find
instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow
instructions
...
Portland
Maine
2011
read easily?
navigate?
identify
sections?
find
instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow
instructio...
Shawnee
County
2004
read easily?
navigate?
identify
sections?
find
instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow
instructio...
New York City
2010
read easily?
navigate?
identify
sections?
find
instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow
instruction...
California
2012
read easily?
navigate?
identify
sections?
find
instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow
instructions
e...
Problems are
well understood
too much text ignored
hidden steps miss important items
jargon and unfamiliar words misinterp...
Poor design and instructions
on ballots make
understanding, marking, and casting
difficult, time-consuming, and
complicated
Poor design and instructions
on ballots make
counting, canvassing, and audits
difficult, time-consuming, and
complicated
Don’t make me read!
43% of American
adults have
reading disabilities
Rushed
Distracted
Tired
Stressed
Unfamiliar
Inexperienced
Uneducated
Other sources of
temporary disability
California
2012
read easily?
navigate?
identify sections?
find instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
e...
find instructions?
read easily?
Yelling!
find instructions?
read easily?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
easily?
complete without
mistakes?
Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices
All voters, regardless of the party preference they
disclosed upon registration, or...
No. 04:
Write short sentences.
No. 06:
Use active voice.
No. 09:
Short paragraphs.
No. 05: Use simple words.Voter-nominate...
Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices
All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter-
nominated or nonpartisan office.
Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices
All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter-
nominated or nonpartisan office.
...
read easily?
navigate?
identify sections?
find instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
easily?
complete ...
Other examples
This is Your Secrecy Envelope
Instructions to Vote Your Ballot:
1. Mark your ballot and enclose it in this Secrecy Envelop...
This is Your Secrecy Envelope
How to vote
1. Mark your ballot.
2. Put it in this Secrecy Envelope. You do not have to use ...
Voter ed
read easily?
navigate?
identify sections?
find instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
easily?
...
Other forms
read easily?
navigate?
identify sections?
find instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
easil...
Other forms
read easily?
navigate?
identify sections?
find instructions?
understand
instructions?
follow instructions
easil...
2005
Proposed
Can voters...
read all of the
information easily?
navigate through the
form to find everything
they need?
identify the diff...
Use lowercase letters
Avoid centered type
Use big enough type
Pick one sans serif font
Support process and
navigation
Use ...
Can voters...
understand what each
instruction means?
follow instructions
easily?
complete the ballot
without making
mista...
At the beginning of the
ballot explain how to vote
Put instructions where
voters need them
Include information that
will p...
New tools.
Research
commissioned by
NIST
SOP and Usability
and Civic Life
Project
Research
commissioned by
NIST
Research
commissioned...
Written and
designed for you
Published by
300+ people
who say
thank you
for
being amazing
Research funded
by Kickstarter and
MacArthur
Foundation
Research funded
by Kickstarter and
MacArthur
Foundation
Coming soo...
Field Guides
To Ensuring
Voter Intent
civicdesigning.org
/fieldguides
Thank you.
Dana Chisnell
dana@civicdesigning.org
civicdesigning.org
@danachis
@ChadButterfly
Don't make me read! Less is more in information for voters
Don't make me read! Less is more in information for voters
Don't make me read! Less is more in information for voters
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Don't make me read! Less is more in information for voters

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A talk I gave to Washington State election officials about using plain language in voter information

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Don't make me read! Less is more in information for voters

  1. 1. Don’t make me read! Less is more in information for voters Dana Chisnell @danachis @ChadButterfly
  2. 2. page 27
  3. 3. King County 2004 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes? Not so easy to read, find sections, or complete without making mistakes Wait. Wha...?
  4. 4. Portland Maine 2011 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes? People missed these instructions Why do the top instructions have letters?
  5. 5. Shawnee County 2004 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes? Not ideal line length and justification. Sections aren’t that easy to pick out
  6. 6. New York City 2010 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes? DEMONSTRATION BALLOT SAMPLE BALLOT FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION - City of New York - County of Kings - November 2, 2010 1. BEFORE VOTING THIS BALLOT, PLEASE READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS BALLOT. 1. ANTES DE EMITIR SU VOTO CON ESTA PAPELETA, SÍRVASE LEER LAS INSTRUCCIONES EN EL DORSO DE ESTA PAPELETA. 2. BALLOT PROPOSALS ARE LOCATED ON THE OTHE SIDE OF THIS BALLOT. 2. LAS PROPUESTAS DE PAPELETA APARECEN EN EL DORO DE ESTA PAPELETA. MARKING INSTRUCTIONS: INSTRUCCIONES DE MARCADO: Correct Mark: Marca Correcta: [Insert Chinese Translation] [Insert Korean Translation] Electors for Governor and Lieutenant Governor [Spanish] [Chinese] [Korean] Vote Once Vote una vez [Chinese] [Korean] Comptroller [Spanish] [Chinese] [Korean] Vote Once Vote una vez [Chinese] [Korean] Attorney General [Spanish] [Chinese] [Korean] Vote Once Vote una vez [Chinese] [Korean] United States Senator [Spanish] [Chinese] [Korean] Vote Once Vote una vez [Chinese] [Korean] 1 2 3 4 1A 1B 1C 1D 1E 1F 1G 1H 1K 1J 1I 2A 2B 2C 2D 2E 2F 2G 3G3F3E3D3C3B3A 4G4F4E4D4C4B4A 4H WRITE-IN CANDIDATO POR ESCRITO WRITE-IN WRITE-IN WRITE-IN WRITE-IN A B C D E F G H K J I A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G H K J I Democratic [Chinese] [Korean] Democratic [Chinese] [Korean] Democratic [Chinese] [Korean] Democratic [Chinese] [Korean] Republican [Chinese] [Korean] Independence [Chinese] [Korean] Conservative [Chinese] [Korean] Working Families [Chinese] [Korean] Green [Chinese] [Korean] Rent is 2 Damn High [Chinese] [Korean] Libertarian [Chinese] [Korean] Taxpayers [Chinese] [Korean] Freedom [Chinese] [Korean] Anti-Prohibition [Chinese] [Korean] Republican [Chinese] [Korean] Independence [Chinese] [Korean] Conservative [Chinese] [Korean] Working Families [Chinese] [Korean] Green [Chinese] [Korean] Libertarian [Chinese] [Korean] Republican [Chinese] [Korean] Independence [Chinese] [Korean] Conservative [Chinese] [Korean] Working Families [Chinese] [Korean] Libertarian [Chinese] [Korean] Freedom [Chinese] [Korean] Republican [Chinese] [Korean] Independence [Chinese] [Korean] Conservative [Chinese] [Korean] Working Families [Chinese] [Korean] Green [Chinese] [Korean] Rent is 2 Damn High [Chinese] [Korean] Libertarian [Chinese] [Korean] Tax Revolt Taxpayers Anti-Prohibition Harry Wilson [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Andrew M. Cuomo [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Carl P. Paladino [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Andrew M. Cuomo [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Carl P. Paladino [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Andrew M. Cuomo [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Howie Hawkins [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Jimmy McMillan [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Warren Redlich [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Carl P. Paladino [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Charles Barron [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Kristin M. Davis [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Thomas P. DiNapoli [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Harry Wilson [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Harry Wilson [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Thomas P. DiNapoli [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Julia A. Willebrand [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] John Gaetani [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Eric T. Schneiderman [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Eric T. Schneiderman [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Dan Donovan [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Eric T. Schneiderman [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Carl E. Person [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Ramon J. Jimenez [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Kristen E. Gillibrand [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Joseph J. DioGuardi [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Kristen E. Gillibrand [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Joseph J. DioGuardi [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Kristen E. Gillibrand [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Cecile A. Lawrence [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Joseph Huff [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] John Clifton [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Dan Donovan [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Robert J. Duffy [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Gregory J. Edwards [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Robert J. Duffy [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Gregory J. Edwards [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Robert J. Duffy [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Gloria Mattera [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Alden Link [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Gregory J. Edwards [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Eva M. Doyle [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] Tanya Gendelman [Chinese] [Chinese] [Korean] [Korean] RDH RDH ✺ ✺ Worst. Instructions. Ever. How many votes do I get for governor?
  7. 7. California 2012 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes? Instructions that are not instructions...
  8. 8. Problems are well understood too much text ignored hidden steps miss important items jargon and unfamiliar words misinterpret meaning instructions in the wrong place make mistakes passive voice = ambiguity guess what to do
  9. 9. Poor design and instructions on ballots make understanding, marking, and casting difficult, time-consuming, and complicated
  10. 10. Poor design and instructions on ballots make counting, canvassing, and audits difficult, time-consuming, and complicated
  11. 11. Don’t make me read! 43% of American adults have reading disabilities
  12. 12. Rushed Distracted Tired Stressed Unfamiliar Inexperienced Uneducated Other sources of temporary disability
  13. 13. California 2012 read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  14. 14. find instructions? read easily? Yelling!
  15. 15. find instructions? read easily?
  16. 16. understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  17. 17. Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices All voters, regardless of the party preference they disclosed upon registration, or refusal to disclose a party preference, may vote for any candidate for a voter-nominated or nonpartisan office. The party preference, if any, designated by a candidate for a voter-nominated office is selected by the candidate and is shown for the information of the voters only. It does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party or that the party approves of the candidate. The party preference, if any, of a candidate for a nonpartisan office does not appear on the ballot. No. 04: Write short sentences. No. 06: Use active voice. No. 09: Short paragraphs. No. 05: Use simple words. 101 words
  18. 18. No. 04: Write short sentences. No. 06: Use active voice. No. 09: Short paragraphs. No. 05: Use simple words.Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices All voters, regardless of the party preference they disclosed upon registration, or refusal to disclose a party preference, may vote for any candidate for a voter-nominated or nonpartisan office. The party preference, if any, designated by a candidate for a voter-nominated office is selected by the candidate and is shown for the information of the voters only. It does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party or that the party approves of the candidate. The party preference, if any, of a candidate for a nonpartisan office does not appear on the ballot.
  19. 19. Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter- nominated or nonpartisan office.
  20. 20. Voter-nominated and nonpartisan offices All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter- nominated or nonpartisan office. If the candidate has a preferred political party, the party name appears on the ballot for information only. It does not mean that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party or that the party approves of the candidate. Candidates for nonpartisan offices do not show party preferences. 67 words
  21. 21. read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  22. 22. Other examples
  23. 23. This is Your Secrecy Envelope Instructions to Vote Your Ballot: 1. Mark your ballot and enclose it in this Secrecy Envelope. You are not required to use this or any Secrecy Envelope for your ballot. 2. Place this Secrecy Envelope containing your ballot in the colored Official Ballot Envelope. Do not enclose your ballot and someone else’s in the same colored Official Ballot Envelope. Every voter has the right to vote his or her ballot in secret. 3. Sign your name at the X on the back of the outer colored Official Ballot Envelope. Envelopes that are unsigned cannot be counted. 4. Your ballot must be postmarked no later than Election Day to be counted. Ballots not mailed must be delivered to a Ballot-Drop Location prior to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Are they really steps in a procedure? Wait! What if I decided I didn’t want to use the secrecy envelope? What are the most important things? How would you make this a real step?
  24. 24. This is Your Secrecy Envelope How to vote 1. Mark your ballot. 2. Put it in this Secrecy Envelope. You do not have to use this or any Secrecy Envelope for your ballot. 3. Put the Secrecy Envelope in the colored Official Ballot Envelope. Or, just put your ballot in the Official Ballot Envelope. Do not put anything but your ballot in the colored Official Ballot Envelope. 4. Sign your name at the X on the back of the outer colored Official Ballot Envelope. Envelopes that are unsigned cannot be counted. 5. Mail your ballot. It must be postmarked no later than Election Day to be counted. Or, take your ballot to a Ballot-Drop Location before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
  25. 25. Voter ed read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  26. 26. Other forms read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  27. 27. Other forms read easily? navigate? identify sections? find instructions? understand instructions? follow instructions easily? complete without mistakes?
  28. 28. 2005 Proposed
  29. 29. Can voters... read all of the information easily? navigate through the form to find everything they need? identify the different sections of the ballot or form? find, read, and follow instructions accurately?
  30. 30. Use lowercase letters Avoid centered type Use big enough type Pick one sans serif font Support process and navigation Use clear, simple language Use accurate instructional illustrations Use informational icons (only) Use contrast and color to support meaning Show what’s most important Designing usable ballots
  31. 31. Can voters... understand what each instruction means? follow instructions easily? complete the ballot without making mistakes? respond appropriately to error messages?
  32. 32. At the beginning of the ballot explain how to vote Put instructions where voters need them Include information that will prevent voters from making errors Write short sentences Use short, simple, everyday words Write in active voice, with the person doing comes before the verb Write in the positive When giving instructions that are more than one step, use a numbered list Keep paragraphs short Separate paragraphs by a space Writing instructions voters understand
  33. 33. New tools.
  34. 34. Research commissioned by NIST SOP and Usability and Civic Life Project Research commissioned by NIST Research commissioned by EAC Field Guides series
  35. 35. Written and designed for you
  36. 36. Published by 300+ people who say
  37. 37. thank you for being amazing
  38. 38. Research funded by Kickstarter and MacArthur Foundation Research funded by Kickstarter and MacArthur Foundation Coming soon Communicating with voters Designing voter ed booklets & flyers Designing election department websites Research funded by Kickstarter and MacArthur Foundation Guiding voters through the polling place Research funded by Kickstarter and MacArthur Foundation
  39. 39. Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent civicdesigning.org /fieldguides
  40. 40. Thank you.
  41. 41. Dana Chisnell dana@civicdesigning.org civicdesigning.org @danachis @ChadButterfly
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