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Ideas + Execution

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Civic Design

Designing The Voter Experience

On Tuesday, November 8, the US will conclude one of the most pivotal elections in the nation’s history. As in other parts of civic life, design can have a profound impact on people’s experience of this public event. After all, design focused on accessibility and usability can empower as many voters as possible to exercise their right to vote.

Tuesday’s election will include the most diverse electorate in US history. Consider the ballot design or the communications tools developed to educate voters leading up to the big day. Their simplicity, clarity and objectivity can best equip all voters with intentional decision-making power. When done right, voter communications can serve as a model for comprehensive user-centered practice, and that’s something we get excited about.

A key contributor to the achievements in the civic design space has been the The Center for Civic Design. The non-profit works with an ever-growing network of researchers and designers that leverage skills in usability, information design, and plain language to ensure that voters can express their intent accurately. The Center’s extensive research and engagement practices have been utilized in a number of projects across the country. Through that process, they developed The Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent: a series of design guideline booklets that election officials can really use, based on solid research and best practices.

So while this roller-coaster of an election continues to throw disconcerting surprises at every turn, why not take the time to look through positive examples of work being done to improve the process and experience instead! Check out the responsive web version of the booklets on the Center for Civic Design’s website or see them displayed at the Cooper Hewitt’s By the People: Designing a Better America exhibit through February 2017.

For an interesting retrospective on the history of US ballot design, take a listen to 99% Invisible’s Butterfly Effects podcast episode, found here.

And last but definitely not least, don’t forget to get out and vote on November 8th! Find your local polling station on Get to the Polls

*An important fact to take note of: the Constitution mentions "the right to vote" five times and across four separate Amendments – the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th – all of which use same powerful language to protect it: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged . . . .”  Check out Professor Garrett Epps’ piece on the constitutionality of voting in the Atlantic.


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