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Building a Better Ballot

How fonts, type size, and shading improve our democracy

After the 2000 election, in which Florida’s “butterfly ballot” changed the outcome of the presidential race, a group of Chicago graphic designers had an idea: Why not use their expertise to produce simpler, easier-to-understand ballots? Thus was born Design for Democracy, which has partnered with Cook County and the state of Oregon on ballot design and produced a new book, Design for Democracy: Ballot + Election Design (University of Chicago Press, $65). “It’s not about beauty or creativity—it’s about legibility,” says the book’s author, Marcia Lausen, director of the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She points out that votes for judicial candidates on the Cook County ballot significantly increased with the new design. For this primary season, Lausen analyzed the layouts of the 2007 Cook County ballot (which shows her handiwork) and City of Chicago ballot (which does not).

Mouse over the checkmarks and X’s to read Lausen’s comments.

 


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