For all the heated primary battles and attention grabbing showdowns, 2016 has proved just as contentious for the electoral process itself. With voters suffering through impossibly crowded and understaffed polling sites, the rise of controversial voter ID laws, and tens of thousands of voters simply disappearing from the registry, it’s not surprising that a whopping 2/3rds of Americans consider the American Electoral process to be fundamentally broken (source).
But while all these problems are mired in a near-impenetrable array of socio-economic factors that make it difficult to implement solutions, at least one of the major stumbling blocks for American voters is a clear, obvious, and relatively nonpartisan problem:
Our ballots are hideous, illegible garbage
Take this New York City demonstration ballot, for example:
Imagine having to strain your eyes to read this in a tiny booth at your local dimly lit elementary school gymnasium. Now tell me that you’re confident that you won’t fill it out wrong.
Tear down this wall (of text)
Every ballot is different, but even the “best” and most streamlined of US ballots are a thick wall of text with often inscrutable selection methods. From Oklahoma to Maryland to Puerto Rico to Mississippi, each has a radically different ballot, but all share the same two crucial design flaws:
- First, the layout for each is a wall of information that is densely packed in a way that makes it difficult to read. Voting is already a stressful, time consuming experience without straining to read 8 point font.
- Secondly, the highly specific instructions for how to vote are either buried at the bottom of the page, or stuck on the back. These are crucial instructions, and violating any of them will get your vote thrown out. With unnecessarily obtuse commands such as “Do Not Overvote”, it is inevitable that voters will make mistakes in attempting to exercise their right to vote.
More often than not, the people led into making these errors will be lower-income individuals with difficulties in reading comprehension. Bad ballots aren’t just an aesthetic travesty: The Brennan Center for Justice and the AIGA agree that they’re a threat to civil liberties.