Books for the News, Film and Media, Politics and Current Events

Re-designing Elections

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For those of you who don’t pay much attention to Canadian politics, Ontario just finished its provincial elections in which Premier Dalton McGuinty was re-elected for a second term in Canada’s most-populous province. But also up for re-election was Ontario’s election process itself. This year voters were asked to cast ballots for both a new provincial government and for a referendum that would change dramatically the way Ontario’s officials are elected. But many voters who were often unexpectedly asked to fill out not one but two ballots found themselves confused and disoriented by unclear voting instructions and hard to read ballots—probably two significant factors in the proposed referendum’s failure. Enter Marcia Lausen, author of Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design who argues that though often overlooked as a significant part of elections, design can have a significant impact on the voting process by maximizing the clarity and functionality of ballots, registration forms, and even the polling locations themselves. Last Sunday she was called in by the Toronto Star to critique Ontario’s election material. Reporter Ryan Bigge writes:

Lausen’s critique of my Notice of Registration card (NRC) is thoroughly humbling. Lausen rapidly lists visual inefficiencies: too many sizes and weights of type; text centered for no apparent reason; indentations that follow no known system of logic, and at least 12 different type styles used. In Design For Democracy, Lausen suggests limiting type to two sizes (small and large) and two weights (light and bold).
My Notice of Registration’s yellow-and-black-bumblebee colour scheme is described as “fine” by Lausen, although she says the use of colour could be more functional. Overall, my NRC earns a “C” from Lausen, who sees no evidence that a graphic designer was involved with the finished product.…

Read the rest of Lausen’s ballot critique on the Toronto Star‘s website or find out more about the book on the UCP website.