Minnesota absentee-clarity2010
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Minnesota absentee-clarity2010






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  • This is both a plain language story and a volunteer action sstory.
  • Hard thing – getting the steps right, so that they worked across all of the variations. We wanted the steps to be as similar as possible.
  • We ran the first usability test on October 29, and met to discuss the report on the following Monday.
  • The second usability test was in November

Minnesota absentee-clarity2010 Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Minnesota Absentee Ballot InstructionsFrom recount to clarity
    Whitney QuesenberyWQusability
    © Whitney Quesenbery
  • 2. In 2000, public attention turned to the usability and accessibility of election materials in the US
  • 3. In 2008, another election – for Senate from Minnesota – was also the subject of a bitter, partisan recount
  • 4. The election was finally decided in June 2009. One of the issues in the recount was the absentee ballots.
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. We started with the packets for registered voters
    Ballot secrecy envelope
    Mailing envelope
    Voter’s certificate
    Witness form
  • 7. There are complexities and variationsfor different situations
    Voters can update their registration
    There are overseas and military voters
    It all added words and clutter
  • 8. 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
  • 9. 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
  • 10. 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)
  • 11. 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
  • 12. 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.
  • 13. Forregisteredvoters
  • 14. Forunregisteredvoters
  • 15. Returnenvelopeswith signaturesof voter and witness
  • 16. 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
  • 17. 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:
  • 18. 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.
  • 19. 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
    A project of the Usability Professionals’ Association Usabilty in Civic LifeDana Chisnell, Laurie Kantner, Ginny Redish, Whitney Quesenbery, Josephine Scott, Sarah Swierenga