Adopted by concurrence at LWVWI Annual Meeting, May 31, 2014
Background and History
The League of Women of Milwaukee County (LWVMC) and its ad hoc Ballot Design Committee arrived at three position statements above based on discussion among its members, with personnel at the Milwaukee County Election Commission and with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB). The position was adopted statewide by concurrence at the LWVWI Annual Meeting in Appleton, May 31, 2014.
Late in 2012, several members of the LWVMC began to examine several 2012 Milwaukee County municipal ballots. In January 2013, the LWVMC board of directors approved formation of the ad hoc Ballot Design Committee. To address ballot design concerns the committee referred to Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design by Marcia Lausen, an initiative of the American Institute of Graphic Arts endorsed by the Federal Election Commission. The committee also discussed determinants of ballot design, including governance of design and constraints imposed by voting machines. The committee then met with Milwaukee County Election Commission personnel in the fall of 2013 and Wisconsin’s GAB in early 2014 to discuss outstanding questions.
In discussion with Milwaukee County Election Commission personnel in fall of 2013, the ad hoc Ballot Design Committee learned about a decrease in Commission personnel and at least six types of aging voting machines in use in the County that require design of many different ballots – and significant personnel time. Cooperation among all municipalities in a county to purchase the same equipment would require fewer ballot design types, fewer technology programs for ballot design, and fewer personnel hours consumed for ballot design by County Election Commission and evaluation by GAB personnel.
Discussion with the GAB in early 2014 revealed that the State budget now in process does not include funds to replace Help America Vote Act dollars that support election administration and oversight, including ballot design. Twenty-six positions are currently supported by those funds. The Legislative Audit Bureau is currently auditing the GAB.
On checking the PEW Charitable Trust website, the committee also learned that the growing use of absentee ballots and the high absentee ballot rejection rates in a few communities make good ballot design an increasingly critical concern. Well-designed ballots lessen the possibility of voter errors. Without the ability to seek clarification from poll workers or the ‘safety net’ of having a voting machine catch a fatal error in marking the ballot, absentee voters can be unknowingly disenfranchised when a simple error results in a rejected ballot.
- Proven principles of good ballot design developed by the American institute of Graphic Arts and endorsed by the Federal Election Commission to produce a ballot that is functional and maximizes legibility, comprehension, ease of use, accuracy, neutrality, efficiency and voter confidence. The elements of good ballot design use fonts, justification, placement, shading and other graphic devices to help voters understand, navigate and complete the ballot.
- Adequate financing of the Governmental Accountability Board/elections oversight body to maintain and expand statewide initiatives to improve ballot design.
- Intergovernmental cooperation to efficiently implement ballot design improvements and to minimize design variability.