Saturday, October 07, 2006

Final Ballot Design

On a couple of occasions I've written about the order to change the order in which candidates are listed on New Hampshire ballots. A solution has finally been reached, to the voluble distress of Secretary of State Bill Gardner:

"This decision is illogical, nonsensical and defies common sense," Gardner said in a statement he distributed, adding he would have appealed Thursday's decision if time had allowed.

"This is not a ballot I would have designed on my own, but it is a ballot we will print and distribute," Gardner said.

The "illogical, nonsensical" ballot, of course, is one that runs candidates' names KLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZABCDEFGHIJ rather than KABCDEFGHIJLMNOPQRSTUVWXY.

So it's taken me a while to write this post because I'll be honest, my first response was "is this the stupidest guy in the state of New Hampshire?" (Actually, there was another word in between "stupidest" and "guy" when I first thought it.) His sense of what's confusing is just so bizarre it defies comprehension.

Then someone told me

He's old. Just think Grandpa Simpson. He doesn't like change and tries to pare change down to the absolute minimum.

Ok, I guess. I still don't see how it looks like less change to take one letter completely out of context than to cut the alphabet in half but keep it from jumping around unless you throw a healthy dose of stupid into the mix, and I'm not really sure I think Grandpa Simpson belongs in a position of importance, but that makes it slightly more comprehensible.

And the important thing is, we now have a ballot that makes some sense.


Blogger Niobium said...

To be honest, I'm not sure what's wrong with alphabetical order. Certainly I see a problem with a ballot which has only two choices (Republican or Democrat), but the alpahbetical part seemed just dandy to me.

3:51 PM  
Blogger ThatTallGuy said...

Be nice to Mr. Gardner. He's probably the one reason we don't have Diebold electronic voting machines all over the state. :)

I've spoken with him at length on that subject and he's very well informed, both of general principles and current events. And he's definitely of the right frame of mind: paper trail, paper trail, paper trail.

I disagree with him too on this issue. But discounting him because "he's old" is wrong.

5:14 PM  
Blogger MissLaura said...

tallguy - I do give Gardner major credit for the paper trail issue. And that's one of the reasons I did not post this for about 24 hours after I drafted it, because while I wanted to comment on the issue, I didn't necessarily want it sitting at the top of the page forever.

Note that the "he's old" explanation was proposed to me by someone else; without it, all I'm left with is he's being really, really stupid.

nio - There is research that shows that being the last choice on a ballot can reduce the votes you get, so having alphabetical order always would diminish the electoral chances of people just because they had names toward the end of the alphabet. Which the court thought was a problem. I care much more about the question of which party gets listed first, myself, but given the court ruling and the fact that there was a sound empirical basis for it, I've thought that Gardner's reaction was bizarre.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Keener said...

I think the Grandpa Simpson reluctance to change is nine times out of ten a good thing in the area of voting.

I think occasionally though, Gardner takes it to an absurd extreme.

When all is said and done, I'm glad we have him. We had a textbook Nader recount in 2004, and it showed pretty much zilch on electoral fraud. I forget the numbers on the recount, but it was damn impressive, and it was done without any drama.

I should say, resistance to change is not compeletely it, since he opposes the striaght ballot because of the muber of people that fuck it up. Maybe part of it is when you see the stupid mistakes people make year after year on ballots, you just get very resistant to anything that requires the least bit of though.

I think Gardner liked the K + ABC ballot because in 19 out of twenty races it would end up compeletely alphabetical.

When you think about it -- wouldn't Grandpa Simpson be THE perfect person to do usability testing on a ballot?

12:28 PM  

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