Usability in Ohio — here we go again

H/t to Doug Chapin, for pointing out the usability problems associated with Cuyahoga County’s ballots.  This is the first election for which bilingual ballots are being distributed countywide. One result is that statewide ballot questions have a long description in English, then a long description in Spanish. At the end of the English description, there is the question (in big bold letters) “SHALL THE AMENDMENT BE APPROVED?” But, there are no yes/no ovals immediately below the question. Then, the Spanish description starts, at the end of which there is the question (in big bold letters) “DEBERA APROBARSE LA ENMIENDA?” Immediately below that are bubbles with Yes/Si and No/No.

Here is a link to the sample ballot in Cleveland, Ward 1, Precinct 1. Check out the ballot starting on page 2.

Fitting question descriptions on the ballot in multiple languages is a long-standing problem with paper ballots. It was a bigger problem with the old lever machines. I remember, at the end, Boston having to resort to a 4-point font just to get everything on the little card describing the ballot questions on their old AVM’s.

One of the dreams with DREs was the ability to render ballot images in multiple languages without this sort of confusion reigning. Of course, DREs haven’t gone all that well, either, so we continue to be in a usability morass, due to the limits of paper ballots, nearly a dozen years after the butterfly ballot.

It would be a shame, and a supreme irony, if the residual vote rate in Cuyahoga County rises this November, due to this well-meaning attempt to make the ballot more accessible to all voters in the county.

I know Doug likes folksy images to illustrate his postings.  Next time there’s a situation like this, perhaps he can show an imagine of a balloon being squeezed at one end, while expanding out at the other end.  Too much of election administration seems to be like that — clamp down on one problem, and another one emerges.  (If not a balloon, then perhaps a picture of Erich Brenn.)