BALLOT DESIGN

Jessie Scanlon is concerned about the poorly-designed ballot for California’s recall:

A study carried out by USA Today and seven other newspapers in 2001 concluded that faulty design, not punch-card machines, was responsible for voters’ confusion in Dade County in 2000. Despite this finding, states have focused their election-reform energies on upgrading old punch-card machines to optical-scan systems or on implementing electronic voting. They have dismissed or ignored the butterfly layout’s problematic design as an aberration–a stupid mistake on the part of local officials.

But bad ballot design is a nationwide problem that needs to be remedied. The problem starts with the fact that ballots aren’t designed by a designer. Instead, county officials oversee their production, and the ballots are put together according to each state’s election code. California’s code, like many of the other states’, is a lengthy document that reads like a bureaucrat’s version of the Ten Commandments: “The Secretary of State shall conduct a drawing of the letters of the alphabet, the result of which shall be known as a randomized alphabet. … There shall be four drawings, three in each even-numbered year and one in each odd-numbered year.” You half-expect mention of a plague.

Of course, the obvious way to handle this would be to put candidates endorsed by the major political parties and others who were at 10 percent or higher in the polls ahead of the 125-odd yahoos running for giggles. But that would be so unfair.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.