Electoral Disfunction – How Bad Design can also Change the World

I have far too much work to be writing this but I just came across quite an interesting short video about Ballot Design and the way it may have altered the results of elections.

We get taught a lot about ways design can change the world but I’m not entirely sure this is what they want us to aim for!

The main problem seems to be a lack of standardisation across all the states of America, meaning that each state’s ballot form is designed individually by people perhaps not best suited to the job.

Just looking at the ‘Butterfly’ example from Palm Beach County in 2000 shows you the extent of the problem. There are holes that don’t align, an odd left and right system, nothing to say only to punch one hole (it may sound silly but 6600 ballot slips had punches for Al Gore as well as another candidate,) and all of this results in an extremely confusing layout:

The video then goes on to discuss this New York City Ballot which sparked a law suit due to it’s confusing design, with some categories spanning two lines, some just one and the odd decision to right align the second line of the longer categories:

It does begin to offer some solutions, this Wisconsin ballot slip has been redesigned to see how it could have been done better:

Although it is by no means the worst starting point it does show how just a few tweaks can make a massive difference to the way you process and decode the information:

It also looks at a system for standardisation, turning to Canada for inspiration. Canada have a very simple ballot system that is consistent throughout the country so it does make you question why a similar system can’t be implemented across the USA. Especially when it is quite evident that the current system is failing.

Seeing videos like this does make graphic design seem a little more worthwhile! Although I love working on packaging, logos, branding and everything else it is good to be reminded sometimes of the huge impact that good design can have and that design does make a difference to the world.

The full video can be viewed here.


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