Idea Center

Dressing Up Online Elections

Almost three in four American adults now use the Internet, and according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, two-thirds of those...
by | October 19, 2008
 

Almost three in four American adults now use the Internet, and according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, two-thirds of those users go online for answers to their questions about government. That's why easy-to-use, navigable state election Web sites are so important, and one reason the Pew Center on the States analyzes the election sites of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study, "Being Online is Not Enough," finds that most state's election sites are inadequate. The finding is based on a set of criteria that includes how easily users can locate the site on the Web, how easy it is for users to navigate through the site and understand content, how well the homepage is organized, how easy it is for users to search the site and how well the site incorporates online tools to further help users locate information. Each state was given a usability score, ranging from 1 to 100. The average usability score was 58 -- ranging from a high of 77 for Iowa to a low of 33 for New Hampshire. The report makes suggestions for improvements that include how to clean up state election homepages and make better use of basic site tools that help users locate polling-place locations and information on ballot measures. It also finds that making election information easy to find and use can yield a return on investment for election officials: If people can find the information they need online, they won't need to call the state for the information, which officials estimate costs between $10 and $100 per call.

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