Vote-by-mail envelopes

In 2018, the first counties in California will start the transition to a new elections model under the Voter’s Choice Act, in which all voters will receive their ballots by mail, with options to return them by mail or dropbox, or they can choose to vote in person.

To help prepare for this transition, the Center for Civic Design is working with the California Secretary of State’s office, county election offices, and national experts to design templates for the vote-by-mail packages, including the envelopes sent out by the local election offices, the ballot return packages, and the instructions for voters.

A successful design will make it easier for voters to vote by mail, within affordable and robust election administration. The design will:

  • Make it easier for voters to recognize and return their ballot accurately
  • Support bilingual ballots to meet Voting Rights Act language access requirements
  • Improve election administration by reducing errors and make it easier to process vote-by-mail ballots.
  • Create recognizable consistency to support statewide voter education campaigns.
  • Offer flexible templates so envelopes can be customized for local information and procedures.
  • Support accurate handling and delivery of ballots sent through the US Postal Service (USPS).

The design system is layout that can adapt to different sizes and types of envelopes with logical arrangement of the content elements that can be adapted to different envelope systems.

Images of the front and back of the outgoing envelopes.

Outgoing envelopes
The blue bar, county seal, election mail logo, and the words “Official ballot” identify the outgoing envelopes. Counties can put contact information and basic instructions on the back, with room for two languages.

Images of the front and back of the return envelopes in English

Return envelopes
The return envelopes include instructions, the voter’s declaration and signature form, and a checklist. This layout for a 6×9″ envelope is shown in English, but will also fit two languages. It is designed for the election details, the voter’s registration name and address, and mailing address to be printed at the mailing house, on the back of the envelope.

The visual anchor of the design is a color bar on the envelopes that help voters and election administrators identify different types of ballot envelopes easily.  The colors are also helpful for the USPS, because they help distinguish envelopes on their way to voters from those returning to the elections office. The color wraps around the edge of the envelope so it is visible in a stack of mailers making them easy to identify at the postal facility.

Layout showing possible color arrangements for two neighboring counties

Colors are used to identify different envelopes.
Outgoing envelopes are always blue. But, within the color palette, counties can choose colors for return envelopes to handle overlapping special elections or to use different color shades in each county so they are easy to differentiate. There are 8 variations for ballot return envelopes – 4 colors (green, teal, purple, grey), each with 2 shades. UOCAVA ballot return envelopes are brown. And (not shown) provisional and CVR provisional ballots each have their own colors, so every ballot envelope is color coded by its function