Being Online Is Still Not Enough
Reviews and Recommendations for State Election Websites
Millions of Americans rely on official state election websites for answers to common voting questions that voters have before casting a ballot.
In 2010, the Pew Center on the States commissioned an assessment of state election websites based on the quality of content, the availability of lookup tools, and overall usability. The study found that many states have upgraded their websites since Pew’s initial 2008 study, Being Online Is Not Enough.
- All but two state election websites offered a tool to look up polling places, an increase from 2008, when a third of the websites lacked this feature.
- 82 percent of the websites allowed voters to check their registration status online, up from just over half in 2008.
- 50 state sites featured a section to help military and overseas voters register and vote. Seven states—Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, and West Virginia—received perfect scores for the information they offered to citizens abroad.
- 82 percent of states saw their official election website rank as the first result on Google when searching for "register to vote in [state]." Nearly two-thirds also returned as the first result when searching for "polling places in [state]."
Although many states have shown dramatic improvement since 2008, others continue to miss opportunities to help and inform voters online:
- Only 10—Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin—offered all the recommended tools applicable to voters in their states. Those tools include registration status, precinct-level ballot information, location of polling places, status of absentee ballots, and status of provisional ballots.
- Some information still was not as accessible as it could be. Many states provided significant amounts of information in difficult-to-search PDFs, instead of the more accessible HTML format.
- Only nine states—Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas—received the highest score for user-friendly navigation within their websites.
- Only 13 states provided information written at the recommended eighth-grade reading level (to make content understandable to low-literacy users), and only 10 states received the top score for concise Web writing.
- Fewer than half of the websites (23) delivered search results clear enough to permit users to refine their searches, an improvement (albeit a modest one) over 2008 (12 sites).
Being Online Is Still Not Enough provides an analysis based on detailed criteria of election websites in 2010 for all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. It also includes recommendations for improving each website to better inform voters, and provides a list of best practices adopted by many states to maximize their election office’s online presence.