In 2000, public attention turned to the usability and accessibility of election materials in the US
In 2008, another election – for Senate from Minnesota – was also the subject of a bitter, partisan recount
The election was finally decided in June 2009. One of the issues in the recount was the absentee ballots.
Revisions to instructions text for absentee ballots began We were sent a copy of the marked up regulations being worked on. We said that just fixing the language was not enough – that we wanted to work on the final materials.
We started with the packets for registered voters Ballot secrecy envelope Mailing envelope Voter’s certificate Witness form Signatures
There are complexities and variationsfor different situations Voters can update their registration There are overseas and military voters It all added words and clutter
1. Text revisions We started from the draft rule. Re-organized the steps into logical groups Untangled sentences and cut extra words And many rounds of revision Many people contributed to the revisions: Dana Botka, Josephine Scott, Ginny Redish & others
2. We added illustrations for each step We used the illustration style from Design for Democracy to create new illustrations for each step of the process. Christina Zyzniewski created all the illustrations
3. We tested complete packets for regularand unregistered voters Local UPA members worked with staff from the Secretary of State’s office. They found some specific problems: Placement of the illustrations Steps and grouping Still-confusing text UPA volunteers: Gretchen Enger, Josh Carroll, Suzanne Currie, John Dusek (along with Minnesota’s Beth Fraser, Andy Lokken)
4. So, we made more revisions While we worked on plain language, election law experts reviewed the revised texts for accuracy in matching the law
5. And did another usability test Minnesota SoS staff conducted the 2nd usability test, made final revisions, and prepared for public review. The new version passed public review and was approved by an administrative law judge. The final version was updated to meet new legislative requirements.
Returnenvelopeswith signaturesof voter and witness
How easily can we learn from users? Usability testingdoes not have to be formal, lengthy, or expensive. You don’t need a formal laboratory 100s of participants special equipment (except for your voting system) special recording systems Poster from Washington State
Project credits Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State: Beth Fraser, Andy Lokken, Michele McNulty, Gary Poser UPA Usability in Civic Life: Whitney Quesenbery, Dana Chisnell, Josie Scott, Caroline Jarrett, Sarah Swierenga Center for Plain Language: Dana Botka, Ginny Redish Usability testing: David Rosen, Josh Carroll, Suzanne Currie, John Dusek, Gretchen Enger Illustrations: Christina Syniewski UPA members:
UPA is an association of professionals with a mission to advance the usability profession through education, information, skill-building and improved methods and practices. The Usability in Civic Life project promotes usability in elections, plain language and accessibility. We mobilize usability professionals to participate in projects supporting better election design. Projects include participation in the Brennan Center’s Ballot Design Task Force, the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee and the US Access Board’s advisory committee to update “Section 508” accessibility regulations, and work with the Center for Plain Language.
Resource for Election Officials: The Ballot Usability Testing Kit A kit of materials to help you run usability tests with ballots or other election materials Usability Testing Ballots: What you need to know Session script Consent, demographics, and satisfaction forms Report template www.usabilityprofessionals.org/civiclife/voting/leo_testing.html A project of the Usability Professionals’ Association Usabilty in Civic LifeDana Chisnell, Laurie Kantner, Ginny Redish, Whitney Quesenbery, Josephine Scott, Sarah Swierenga