Answering 

voters’ questions 

at county 

election websites



Dana Chisnell
@danachis
@ChadButterfly
Answering 

voters’ questions 

at county 

election websites



Dana Chisnell
@danachis
@ChadButterfly
What questions did you have
about the election?
How did you find out the
answers?
Cataloged 147 election websites
Conducted 41 remote moderated
usability tests
Cataloging
94% of the population lives in a county that has an
elections website 

Of 3,057 counties or equivalent, 966 didn’t have
w...
Remote moderated
usability testing
What questions did you have
about the election?
What questions did you have
about the election?
What happened?
Insights
33 of 41 participants looked online for
answers

23 went to county websites

Insights
None had been to a state election
website
Voters are
ballot-centric
they’re focused on that act,
not conscious of the overall process
What’s on the ballot?
?
?
?
?
?
?
!
?
Bad news
Voters don’t think to look
in the polling place
lookup widget for ballots
They don’t expect to
have to give perso...
What’s on the ballot?
What are my options for voting?
absentee early voting Election Day
what’s the 

deadline to apply?
w...
what’s the 

deadline to apply?
what do I have to
do to get one?
when is it due?
where do I vote? where do I vote?
who is ...
But sites showed
nearly the opposite
process.
Elections = process
1.register
2.voting options
3.polling place location
4.voter ID
5.current office holders
6.military an...
What to do
Establish...
you’re on a government
website
it’s the election website
this is the source you
want
when the next election is
What’s on the ballot?
How do I vote if I can’t
get to the polling place?
Who are my reps now,
and what districts am I
in?
...
Help voters find your website.
Connect your website to other
government sites.
Answer the question: ‘What’s on the
ballot?...
Write links that use words voters use.
Put the most important information in the
main menu or the center.
Help voters find...
NOI &
DemocracyWorks 

pilot 



(funded by 

Omidyar Network)
2012-13: found voters’ mental models
are opposite LEO process orientation
2014: tested sites with people who are
blind or ...
29 websites from a range of
jurisdictions from the largest to fairly
small
participants used their own 

assistive technol...
Find out date of the next election 

n=52

37 succeeded (71%)
Find out what’s on the ballot

n=55

34 succeeded (62%)
Find...
all the sites had issues
participants using screen magnifiers
were more likely to be successful than
those using screen re...
Field Guides To
Ensuring 

Voter Intent
!
civicdesigning.
org/fieldguides
!
!
Thank you.
Dana Chisnell



dana@centerforcivicdesign.org
centerforcivicdesign.org
anywhereballot.com/library





@danachis

@ChadBu...
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
Answering voters' questions at county election websites
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Answering voters' questions at county election websites

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Voters think about elections differently from how election administrators do.

A presentation to NASED in San Francisco 2014.

Published in: Design
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Answering voters' questions at county election websites

  1. 1. Answering 
 voters’ questions 
 at county 
 election websites
 
 Dana Chisnell @danachis @ChadButterfly
  2. 2. Answering 
 voters’ questions 
 at county 
 election websites
 
 Dana Chisnell @danachis @ChadButterfly
  3. 3. What questions did you have about the election?
  4. 4. How did you find out the answers?
  5. 5. Cataloged 147 election websites Conducted 41 remote moderated usability tests
  6. 6. Cataloging
  7. 7. 94% of the population lives in a county that has an elections website 
 Of 3,057 counties or equivalent, 966 didn’t have websites (31.5%)
 “election department” varied by region Insights
  8. 8. Remote moderated usability testing
  9. 9. What questions did you have about the election?
  10. 10. What questions did you have about the election?
  11. 11. What happened?
  12. 12. Insights 33 of 41 participants looked online for answers
 23 went to county websites

  13. 13. Insights None had been to a state election website
  14. 14. Voters are ballot-centric they’re focused on that act, not conscious of the overall process
  15. 15. What’s on the ballot?
  16. 16. ? ? ?
  17. 17. ? ? ?
  18. 18. ! ?
  19. 19. Bad news Voters don’t think to look in the polling place lookup widget for ballots They don’t expect to have to give personal information to get their ballot They’re unaware that their ballot could be unique
  20. 20. What’s on the ballot? What are my options for voting? absentee early voting Election Day what’s the 
 deadline to apply? what do I have to do to get one? when is it due? where do I vote? where do I vote?
  21. 21. what’s the 
 deadline to apply? what do I have to do to get one? when is it due? where do I vote? where do I vote? who is in office now? do I need ID to vote? what’s the deadline for registering?
  22. 22. But sites showed nearly the opposite process.
  23. 23. Elections = process 1.register 2.voting options 3.polling place location 4.voter ID 5.current office holders 6.military and overseas voters 7.sample ballot
  24. 24. What to do
  25. 25. Establish... you’re on a government website it’s the election website this is the source you want when the next election is
  26. 26. What’s on the ballot? How do I vote if I can’t get to the polling place? Who are my reps now, and what districts am I in? Where do I vote? Do I have to show ID? Priority content
  27. 27. Help voters find your website. Connect your website to other government sites. Answer the question: ‘What’s on the ballot?’ Group navigation to answer voters’ questions. Help visitors know what site they are on and what will be covered there.
  28. 28. Write links that use words voters use. Put the most important information in the main menu or the center. Help voters find ballot information. Use words that voters use in links, headings, and graphics. Help voters see at a glance what each chunk of information is about.
  29. 29. NOI & DemocracyWorks 
 pilot 
 
 (funded by 
 Omidyar Network)
  30. 30. 2012-13: found voters’ mental models are opposite LEO process orientation 2014: tested sites with people who are blind or have low vision
  31. 31. 29 websites from a range of jurisdictions from the largest to fairly small participants used their own 
 assistive technology
  32. 32. Find out date of the next election 
 n=52
 37 succeeded (71%) Find out what’s on the ballot
 n=55
 34 succeeded (62%) Find information about accessible voting
 n=54
 27 succeeded (50%)

  33. 33. all the sites had issues participants using screen magnifiers were more likely to be successful than those using screen readers participants using sites from larger jurisdictions reported more problems
  34. 34. Field Guides To Ensuring 
 Voter Intent ! civicdesigning. org/fieldguides ! !
  35. 35. Thank you.
  36. 36. Dana Chisnell
 
 dana@centerforcivicdesign.org centerforcivicdesign.org anywhereballot.com/library
 
 
 @danachis
 @ChadButterfly
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