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Ballot Design

Sound design principles, along with better processes for creating and testing ballots, can prevent lost or erroneous votes.


After the notorious butterfly ballots in Florida’s Palm Beach County helped plunge the 2000 presidential election into turmoil, the United States overhauled its election administration and voting technology. Yet 19 years and billions of dollars later, poorly designed ballots continue to disenfranchise tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of voters.

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. Election officials can take simple measures to cure design defects and ensure that every vote counts.