How voters get and use information to participate in elections
We have been obsessed since founding the Center for Civic Design with understanding what makes an informed voter. How do voters find information when they want to learn about an election? What helps them find the information they need easily?
Our projects have asked questions like what makes a good official voter guide? Turns out that it is one that informs frequent voters and invites new voters to participate.
In a 3-year project with the Future of California Elections, we designed a template for official voter guides, wrote a best practices manual with the League of Women Voters, and partnered with Orange, Santa Cruz, and Shasta counties to pilot the design. In the 2016 elections, more than 3 dozen counties in California adopted all or part of our work.
Can a voter guide help someone struggling to understand what will be on the ballot, and the implications of their choices? Can it help people find the information they need to make a decision about how to vote?
We wanted to know if connecting voters to nonpartisan information about the candidates and issues in an election encourages participation. A partnership with TurboVote and e.ThePeople (the platform behind vote411.org) tested whether timely reminders and links to voter guides could make a difference. In October-November 2016, we followed 52 voters as they prepared to vote and learned how important trusted information is in cutting through the buzz that surrounds an election.
Our work in this program area has covered voter guides, vote-by-mail envelopes, election websites, voter education, and the California Voter Bill of Rights. Because every piece of information that voters get about elections must be written in plain language, designed for clarity, and accessible for people with disabilities and low English proficiency.
All of this work has led us to a deeper understanding of the voter journey and how many barriers there are in the way of being a voter. Our work helps change that!