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Voting: the 233-year-old design problem
 

Voting: the 233-year-old design problem

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Slides from SxSW Interactive panel given by Dana Chisnell, Ric Grefe, Larry Norden, and Dana Debeauvoir

Slides from SxSW Interactive panel given by Dana Chisnell, Ric Grefe, Larry Norden, and Dana Debeauvoir

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  • Thank you for coming to the most important panel in the Free World. \n\nHow many of you have voted in an election in the past 12 months ?\n\nFor people from the US, how many of you have ever worked an election as a poll worker or observer? \n\nGreat. We’re talking to you. \n\nAnd, we’re talking to you people who have NOT been involved in civic design before. Stay with me. \n
  • 3:31\n\nTHIS is the form - and a ballot is nothing but a form - that changed the world. \n\nIt is the ballot used in Miami-Dade County in the US presidential election in 2000. If you wanted to vote for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, which hole do you punch? A lot of voters in Florida thought it was the second hole. It’s not. It’s the third. \n\nThere are all kinds of design problems with this ballot. Many were caused by one little change that was made with the best of intentions. The person who designed this ballot wanted to increase the types size for her on average elderly voters. \n\nThe effect flowed the candidates to an interlaced, butterfly layout across a two-page spread. \n\nThis well intentioned but uninformed design decision was crucially important to where we are in the world TODAY. \n\nThis design mistake and dozens like it on ballots across the US that we don’t talk about meant that the margins -- the difference between the lead vote getter and the next vote getter -- was tiny AND disputable. In this case, the dispute was ended by the US Supreme Court when it stopped the counting and declared George Bush the 43rd president of the United States. \n
  • 3:33\n\nHere’s a similar ballot, using the same technology, from Cook County, Illinois. On the left is the original design. It has condensed type in all caps, and the dominant feature is YES and NO with their hole numbers next to the candidate names. In this case, we’re voting on whether to keep these judges in office. \n\nMarcia Lausen redesigned the ballot to correct the visual hierarchy to emphasize the candidate names in the example on the right. It’s easier to read, Easier to line up. Easier to see what you’re voting on. And there are instructions, exactly where and when you need them. \n
  • 3:34\n\nFrom her work with Cook County and a large project taken on by AIGA’s Design for Democracy project for the US Election Assistance Commission came some key findings from researching voters and observing people in usability tests. \n\nThey are these: (reveal) \n\nThey seem obvious, don’t they. As designers, we work with these basic heuristics every day. But they weren’t obvious in 2000 to the people who were designing ballots. And these people (gesture to the panel) are going to tell that story and the story of elections since. \n\nWe’re going to discuss why it’s so difficult to design a usable ballot that any voter can easily use to vote the way she intends. We’re going to talk about the state of the art, who designs ballots, and what’s going on to improve ballot design. We’re also going to talk about how each one of you in the audience can join the movement for better civic design. \n
  • 3:35\n\nMeet our illustrious experts. \n\nFirst, Ric Grefe is the executive director of AIGA and the current head of the Design for Democracy project. \n\nLarry Norden is a civil rights lawyer and senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. \n\nDana Debeauvoir - the star of our show - is the county clerk for Travis County, Texas, which also makes her the head of elections there. You’re all in Travis County right now. \n\nI’m Dana Chisnell, your moderator and lead guitarist. \n\nThank you all for being here. [PAUSE]\n\nI’ve been working in civic design for about 8 or 9 years. When I tell people that I specialize in voting and election design, the first question I always get, usually with an exasperated whine is...\n
  • 3:36\n\nWhy is this so complicated? Why is it so hard to design a usable ballot?\n\nOther countries pull this off much more gracefully than the US. What’s the big deal? \n\nLarry, what’s the history here? (States’ rights, legislation at the state level) \n\nRic, why is it so bad that design is legislated? Doesn’t that actually make it easier to impose consistency? (Laws are old; probably trying to solve some problem that shouldn’t be solved that way.) \n\nDana, what are the logistics you face in administering elections? (EMSs, filing deadlines, ballot styles, etc.) \n
  • 3:46\n\nStaying with Dana for a moment -- you’ve gone through some major technological changes in the election department. Tell us about what it’s like making that transition. \n\n[Follow up about the effect on poll worker training; press fallout; recounts; security questions. ] \n\nLarry, you’ve been working with New York state on their transition from mechanical lever voting machines to paper-based optically scanned bubble ballots. The lever machines presented some technology problems, but it seems like the voters of New York experienced new, unexpected problems with the new systems in the last couple of elections. What happened? \n\nRic, I know that when the best practices for election design were released, the voting system manufacturers resisted. The voting system vendors don’t seem that interested in good design. What’s the problem there? (They’re coming around now, but at the time...) \n
  • 3:56\n\nSo, why isn’t this room full of people who design ballots, or do interaction design for electronic voting systems? \n\nDana, tell us about who designs ballots and what the challenges are - what it’s like for those people. \n\n(Larry and Ric, please chime in to the discussion with your experiences working with local election officials. Any specific anecdotes would be great.) \n
  • \nAh. But. The people designing ballots are not designers. They’re not UXers. They’re not IT people. \n\nWho designs ballots? \n\nCounty clerks or registrars or people on their staffs. \nOR their voting system vendors. \n\nThey are mostly women. \nSome have been elected. Some have been appointed. \nThey are clerks or registrars, many of whom have responsibility for vital records, deeds, and other paper that the county cares about, which means she also, traditionally, gets elections.\n\nThey are excellent public servants, who are usually highly skilled at public administration. \n\nThey are not designers.\n\nAnd remember, their back-end systems are REALLY hard. Those systems don’t talk to Indesign. \n
  • \nTo give you a picture of just how big this community is... [READ first bullet]. I once taught at a convention of election officials in Texas where from 62 counties there were 450 local election officials. That’s just who showed up. \n\n\n[Talk / read] \n\n\nSo, they’re not trained designers, though many more are learning these days. Or they hire designers to be on their staffs. But because they are good public servants, they are very concerned about costs. \n
  • \nTo give you a picture of just how big this community is... [READ first bullet]. I once taught at a convention of election officials in Texas where from 62 counties there were 450 local election officials. That’s just who showed up. \n\n\n[Talk / read] \n\n\nSo, they’re not trained designers, though many more are learning these days. Or they hire designers to be on their staffs. But because they are good public servants, they are very concerned about costs. \n
  • \nTo give you a picture of just how big this community is... [READ first bullet]. I once taught at a convention of election officials in Texas where from 62 counties there were 450 local election officials. That’s just who showed up. \n\n\n[Talk / read] \n\n\nSo, they’re not trained designers, though many more are learning these days. Or they hire designers to be on their staffs. But because they are good public servants, they are very concerned about costs. \n
  • \nTo give you a picture of just how big this community is... [READ first bullet]. I once taught at a convention of election officials in Texas where from 62 counties there were 450 local election officials. That’s just who showed up. \n\n\n[Talk / read] \n\n\nSo, they’re not trained designers, though many more are learning these days. Or they hire designers to be on their staffs. But because they are good public servants, they are very concerned about costs. \n
  • 4:06\n\nWhat’s the state of the art? What’s being done to make election design better? \n\nRic, tell us more about Design for Democracy and the result of the project for the Election Assistance Commission. \n\nLarry, the Brennan Center issued a report a couple of years ago looking at ballot design as the possible cause of close margins. What was the impetus for that project? \n\nDana, what’s happening at the county and state level in Texas that you think is improving design for voters and poll workers?\n
  • 4:16\n\nLet’s look at some real examples. Before, with conventional design, and after with at least some of the best practices applied. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Larry, this comes from the Better Ballots report. Tell us about it. \n
  • Dana, you have a story about this ballot from Sarasota County in 2006. \n\nThis is an electronic voting system, right? \n\n(Larry, chime in.) \n
  • \n
  • \n
  • \n
  • Larry, here’s a later Sarasota ballot, from 2010, right? Learned their lessons from the electronic system, did they? What’s the story here? \n
  • Larry, here’s a later Sarasota ballot, from 2010, right? Learned their lessons from the electronic system, did they? What’s the story here? \n
  • 4:20\n\nRic, what would you say are the most important lessons here? \n
  • 4:22\n\nWhat can the people in this room do? \n\nI urge you to take action. Get involved. When you leave this lovely bubble of Austin and South By, do SOMETHING. \n
  • Sign up to work elections as a poll worker.\n
  • If you find that you want to represent a party or an organization, sign up to be an official observer. \n
  • You can also call up your county elections department and volunteer to proofread materials. This will give you some exposure to and insights about the process. \n\nAnd you could truly help the department prevent errors that are very difficult to catch. \n
  • \nWhen you vote, ask to use the voting system for people with disabilities. In Travis County, everyone uses the same voting system. But most voting systems in most counties are not universally usable. There is often a stigma attached to using the system. If more of us used the system, the stigma might be released and poll workers might be better trained about that system. \n\nJust plan for voting to take you more time. \n\n\n
  • After the session, see me, give me your contact information and we’ll add you to these cooperative projects being done by AIGA and the Usability Professionals’ Association. \n\nWe do things like hold flash usability tests of ballots pre-Election Day. \n
  • 4:24\n\nQ&A? \n\nThanks to the panel, Ric, Larry, and especially to Dana for being here. \n\nAnd thanks to all of you for coming and caring about the greater good. \n

Voting: the 233-year-old design problem Voting: the 233-year-old design problem Presentation Transcript

  • Voting:the 233-year-old design problemSouth by Southwest Interactive2011 1
  • Design for Democracy, Marcia Lausen
  • Top 10 design principles 4
  • Top 10 design principles Use lowercase letters Use accurate instructional illustrations Avoid centered text Use informational icons (only) Pick one sans-serif font Use contrast and color Use big enough type functionally Support process and Decide what’s most navigation important Use clear, simple language 4
  • Ric Larry Dana DanaGrefe Norden Debeauvoir ChisnellAIGA Brennan Travis County,Executive Center TexasDirector Senior Counsel Clerk 5
  • Why is this so hard? 6
  • Why does every new technology make theproblem worse? 7
  • Who designs ballots? 8
  • What’s being done about design in voting andelections? 9
  • Real examples 10
  • Better Ballots: Re-designed Ballot, Kewaunee County
  • Better Ballots: Re-designed Ballot, Kewaunee CountyKeep contestsin samecolumn
  • Better Ballots: Sarasota County, FL (2006)One Contest Per Screen for DREs
  • Better Ballots: Sarasota Ballot Compared to Charlotte Ballot
  • Better Ballots: Sarasota County
  • Better Ballots: Sarasota County
  • Why is this so hard?Why does it not improve with new technology?Who designs ballots? 15
  • What can you do to make sure every vote inyour community is counted? 16
  • Be apoll worker 17
  • Observeelections 18
  • Volunteer to proof ballotsand materials 19
  • Use theaccessible system http://trace.wisc.edu/voting/ 20
  • Join our projectsAIGA Design for Democracy UPA Usability in Civic Life 21
  • Dana Chisnell dana@usabilityworks.net, @danachisRic Grefe grefe@aiga.orgLarry Norden NordenL@exchange.law.nyu.eduDana Debeauvoir (512) 854-9188 22