Posted on June 05, 2009Yesterday was Election Day for the EU parliament in both the United Kingdom and Holland – the first two countries in Europe to vote in this year's elections. However, a few localities in the UK did their best Florida impression as a faulty crease in thousands of ballots made it difficult for many voters to find one of the parties on the ballot, the UK Independence Party. The Independence Party's leaders announced that they are going to protest the results and want a rerun of the election. Although this is unlikely, the snafu brings to the forefront an issue that often gets neglected: the importance of ballot design.
Prior to the 2000 fiasco in Florida where a poorly designed ballot in several Florida counties led to hundreds of elderly Jews to accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan (a phenomenon that even puzzled him), ultimately contributing to Bush's win in the state and as a result the presidency, ballot design was an issue that got little attention from the media.
The events of 2000, along with the events of yesterday, emphasize the importance of ballot design in fair elections. Ballots should be designed so that they are easy to use and have an unbiased format in which all candidates and parties are clearly delineated and the ballots are uncomplicated and easy to mark. They should be user tested in a transparent ways. Election officials failing to follow good procedures should face consequences. In the 21st century there is no reason to not have uniform, professional ballot designs that avoid problems like those of yesterday's elections.