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Mandate Media: Digital Strategy for People Changing the World
Our Blog for Tips, Tricks, and News: Politics + Technology

Design for Democracy

Well, the California recall election is upon us - and it's already looking like Florida 2000 all over again. Back then, the infamous butterfly ballot wreaked havoc on voters - this time, it's 133 candidates organized randomly according to this alphabet: RWQOJMVAHBSGZXNTCIEKUPDYFL. Worse than the alphabet, the design of the California recall ballot is absolutely horrid. It's almost like they don't want people to vote.

A group of graphic designers has launched an effort called Design for Democracy that seeks to redesign ballots, census forms, and other government documents. After all, it's through good design that critical information is made clear to the general public. State elections officials here in Oregon have already been working to implement the Design for Democracy guidelines; while their counterparts in California are doing dumb things like putting sixteen font combinations on a single ballot.

As any good website designer can tell you, graphic design makes a huge difference in the usability of any interface - and a ballot is just a decision interface. Slate.com commissioned three professional designers to produce alternative California recall ballots.

Of course, no one has yet suggested producing a ballot equal to the gold standard: the first post-apartheid South African ballot, with full-color photos of each candidate and their party logos. View the South African ballot here (or check out the framed one in my office).

This item was originally posted at MandateMedia.com on October 6, 2003.