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Bad Ballots and Lost Votes: The Path to Better Ballot Design

A ballot is one of the most important tools of a functioning democracy, and yet poorly designed ballots continue to disenfranchise thousands of voters every year. What do ballot defects look like? And how can election officials remedy them?

This is a virtual event
  • Larry Norden
  • ,
  • Victoria Bassetti
  • ,
  • Alicia Yin Cheng
  • Ilya Marritz
Ballot Design

Throughout American history, ballot design and election administration have been contested ground.

Confusing ballot layouts and instructions harm all voters, but low-income voters, new voters, and elderly voters most of all. All too often, the loss of votes and rates of errors caused by poor design exceed candidates’ margins of victory, casting doubt on whether election outcomes always reflect voters’ intentions. What do these ballot defects look like? And how can election officials remedy them?

Please join us for a virtual panel discussion addressing these questions. Brennan Center election experts will discuss sound ballot design principles and how better processes for creating and testing ballots can prevent lost or erroneous votes. They will be joined by Alicia Yin Cheng, graphic designer and author of This Is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot. Cheng’s book is the first illustrated history of printed ballot design, and it illuminates the paramount but often flawed process at the heart of our democracy.

This event is produced in partnership with New York University’s John Brademas Center and NYU Votes.


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