Graphic design is more than just aesthetics; graphic design is a form of communication between you and your audience. Good design plays an overall vital role in enhancing the communication and understanding in your message.

Poor design particularly poor ballot design can affect election outcomes as we saw for the 2016 election in Broward County Florida. In 2016, the senate race was among 2 candidates. About 3.7% of voters skipped voting for U.S. senator; that was 2.5% more than in other counties in Florida. Upon studying the ballot design, the layout may have been a contributing factor to the discrepancy of missing or lack of voting in for the senate race in Broward County.

The ballot design itself is a typical three-column layout. But as you see at the bottom, the first column under the instructions are the candidates for Senator and Congressional representative. It’s probable that some voters skipped the instructions and started marking their ballots at the top of the second column.

Many states have standards in their election codes for the design of ballots. The Broward ballot design did not adhere to several Election Assistance Commission guidelines:

  • Limit instructions to one language or no more than two
  • Ballot instructions should run either vertically or horizontally, must be self-contained and separate from contest data
  • Color background for the instruction section

Possible solutions:

  • Move the two races to the top of the second column
  • Leave instructions on the first column only with blank white space at the bottom
  • Or run the instructions across the top of the ballot horizontally with a color background and start the contests in the three columns below the instructions

The takeaway here, test, test, and test the ballot design.


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