Being Online Is Still Not Enough
Reviews and Recommendations for State Election Websites
Best Practices: Content
State election websites can significantly improve their usefulness by providing comprehensive content for a wide variety of voting audiences, and by offering lookup tools that allow voters to find customized information. The following recommendations are based on expert assessments and practices already in place in some states.
- Clearly state whether it is legal for absentee voters to receive assistance with marking their ballots.
- Tell voters what to do if an absentee ballot is lost, damaged, or does not arrive in the mail.
- Explain which early and absentee voting options are available.
- Include information about the accessibility of early voting websites.
- Add candidate contact information such as phone numbers, e-mail and websites addresses so voters have a reliable directory for further researching their choices.
- Provide job descriptions for state offices so voters can evaluate which candidate is most qualified for an elected position.
- Archive candidate and ballot-measure information to preserve historical information for the public.
- Clearly state whether voters must show ID when voting at the polls.
- Include the hours polling places are open in lookup results.
- Advertise a toll-free number or provide an online tool so voters can find the status of their provisional ballots.
- Designate a phone number that can serve as a help or hotline number for voters and publicize it on the websites.
- List the hours election offices are open to the public.
- Provide links to websites for local election agencies.
- Provide elections calendars that are easy to use and intended for the general public.
- Include information about local election dates and whether they are consolidated with state elections.
- Incorporate maps in election-results displays.
- Provide results in percentages and by precinct to help the public better understand the data.
- Provide sections for military and overseas voters that include, or connect to, all relevant content and tools, such as ballot information and lookup tools for voter registration status.
- Increase visibility of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) and include state-specific instructions for its completion.
- Make sure website practices are consistent with published privacy and security policies.
- If a lookup tool requires sensitive voter information, ensure it is on a secure server.
- Offer content now presented in PDF format, such as instructions on the state voter registration form, in HTML as well.
- Identify legal requirements with phrases such as “you must” or “you are required by law to,” rather than “you should” or “you may wish to.”
- Let those who want to register to vote know to what degree the information they provide on a registration form is considered public and under what circumstances, if any, it can remain private.
- Provide registration instructions for voters who are in hospitals or long-term care facilities.
- Provide clear, direct information about all the circumstances that would require voters to update their registration records.
- Provide instructions for using accessible voting equipment to cast a ballot.
- Make sure information for disabled voters, such as a TDD or TTY phone number, is accessible and presented in HTML.