Civic Design

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rumaging through others' research

For the last several days, I've been looking for primary research about ballot design. Of course, since it is handy, I've been looking on the Web for this information. A few interesting things have turned up. One irrefutable conclusion: There is no research on ballot instructions.

There have been several studies on the usability and accuracy of electronic voting systems (Bederson, et al.; Herrnson, et al.; Killam). Some cover accessibility of electronic voting systems (Burton & Uslan). One group has looked at the usability of paper ballots (Everett, Byrne and Greene). Usefully, one team has looked at issues for reading-disabled voters (Goler & Selker). The sources of many of these reports are listed in the links on the right side of this page.

Only Ginny Redish has started to look at instructions on ballots in work she did for NIST at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006. See her reports, available here:

When I can, I'll post a minimal annotated bibliography with links to the reports I have.

I've also found book titles on topics that may be related to ballot design, but the printings seem to be limited; I haven't been able to find copies locally to me:

  • Neimi, R. G. and Herrnson, P.S. Ballot design: How to improve life at the ballot box.

  • Election Center, National Task Force on Accessible Elections; National Organization on Disability. Voting, a constitutional right for all citizens: a guidebook to assist election officials to achieve equal access for all citizens to the polling place and the ballot.

There's also a poster:
University of Minnesota Design Institute. Voting by design: A communications map of the voter

If anyone out there has access to these documents and can send them to me for review, please email me at


  • I have some prelimminary data on some ballot layout issues (particularly instructions) and their effect on usability. I shared this with Ginny, but I think it was after her report so its probably not flected in her report.

    The jist is, there appears to be a significant interaction effect between the ballot instructions and the voters perception of both computerized systems and elections as offical activites. The effect was observed in how they interpreted the instructions (therefore how they acted) as well as how important it was to them (think performance anxiety).

    By Blogger Bill Killam, At 7:08 AM  

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