Archived Voice Articles

Graphic art majors join election ballot research effort in Nebraska

By Jane Ver Steeg

Three graphic design students and professor David Versluis served as members of the Nebraska ballot design group for the November 7 general election.

Students Mason Welsh, Rachel Clemens, Rob Haan, and professor David Versluis researched pilot tests of newly designed ballots in Hartington, Nebraska, used in the Cedar County vote.

The Dordt group conducted observations and satisfaction evaluations of the redesigned ballot and Election Day signs. On Election Day, voters could provide feedback to members of the design team at polling sites. This feedback will allow election officials nationwide to continue to improve the readability and usability of ballots.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for us to become more engaged in all aspects of graphic design and see elements of the world that can’t be demonstrated in the classroom,” said Welsh. “I also felt that it was a chance for us to provide a public service, not just locally, but in a project influencing our whole nation. I very much enjoyed the experience and am very grateful that God was able to use us in this way.”

Haan said that working on the project was a really good way to start thinking about other aspects of design that aren’t regularly thought about while working on design projects. Haan added that it was also a good opportunity to meet some professionals working in the field of design.

This initiative is the result of a cooperative research project between Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale’s office, Cedar County Clerk David Dowling, Colfax County Clerk Sharon Bohaboj, and Design for Democracy.

“This partnership places Nebraska at the forefront of such research in the nation,” Gale said.

“Design for Democracy,” an initiative of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), was begun after the 2000 national elections uncovered various problems in ballot design. AIGA now serves as a consultant to the National Commission on the Voting Rights Act of Congress.

Professor Versluis said, “We were excited to be a small, but important part of the design process for this significant project. This kind of design is known as information design and something I talk to students about, because of its strong service to community aspect. This was a special opportunity to serve the AIGA.”