Those of you that follow Oxide Design Co. know that we’re involved in a lot of different election design efforts, working to make the voting process more clear, more trustworthy, and more accessible. We recently had a great opportunity to make great strides forward in the effort by working with Dana Chisnell of Usability Works to design the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent. The Guides contain “field-researched, critical ballot design techniques that help ensure that every vote is cast as voters intend,” but they’re also easy-to-use pocket-sized books, each containing a simple Top 10 list on a particular topic.
The first four volumes have been released: “Designing usable ballots”, “Writing instructions voters understand”, “Testing ballots for usability”, and “Effective poll worker materials”, and several more volumes are currently in production. As noted on AIGA Design For Democracy‘s posting of the guides, “Each book includes researched guidelines and examples about a specific and far-too-common election design problem. These guides will help county election officials, designers and advocates design ballots, write instructions for voters, test ballots for usability and create effective poll worker materials.”
Oxide designed the Field Guides, and also contributed some of the content (although Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery are mostly to thank for that). Production of the guides was funded through Kickstarter, via a project so popular it raised over 130% of its goal. It was heartening to see 321 total strangers care so much about this effort that they’d pledge their hard-earned money to see it come to fruition. Printing was done at Scout Books, a hard-working outfit based in Portlandia that’s been an absolute pleasure to work with.
The first printing of the Field Guides is almost completely sold out as of this writing, but a reprint is in the works. PDFs of each guide can be downloaded from the Civic Design blog. I’m happy to report that the guides have been extremely well received by elections officials around the country, which gives us great hope that they’ll make a real difference. Best compliment we’ve received so far is from Janice Atkinson, who is about to retire from Sonoma County (California) after 40 years of directing elections there. She made a point of telling us that the Field Guides project was “the most exciting thing she’d seen in elections, ever“, and then asked if she could be part of the follow-on work for the rest of the planned Field Guides, because she loved the first four and could see the great value of the upcoming ones.