Election Websites: Michigan

Election Websites: Michigan

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MI BONE2Researchers assessed state election websites for the Pew Center on the States between May-November 2010, using detailed criteria evaluating the content, lookup tools, and usability. Websites may have changed since they were assessed. See methodology (PDF).

Strengths include:

  • Extensive voter registration information, including content for the homeless, felons, those who are hospitalized and residents of long-term- care facilities.
  • Lookup tools that allow voters to view their registration status, polling place location, sample ballots, and absentee ballot status.
  • A section geared toward people with disabilities that provides instruction on how to use special voting machines in polling places and indicates the availability of poll workers for assistance.
  • Ballot measure texts, summaries, and nonpartisan analyses.
  • Content written at the eighth-grade level, making important information understandable to low-literacy users.
  • Strong accessibility for users with visual disabilities, including the use of scalable fonts to allow users to easily change the size of text on a website; text as an alternative to graphics for users who cannot see images on a website; high contrast between text and background colors; and links that change color once visited.

Recommended improvements include:

  • On the home page, provide concise, easy-to-scan text directed at specific audiences, rather than offering many links—some of which are duplicative—that overwhelm users with too much text.
  • Provide voting information for students (36 states offer).
  • Explain how to obtain a replacement for a lost or damaged absentee ballot (18 states offer).
  • Explain what military and overseas voters should do if they do not receive a requested ballot (35 states offer), and describe circumstances that would require them to re-register (22 offer) or renew a request for an absentee ballot (31 offer).
  • Offer a lookup tool for voters to check their provisional ballot status (19 states offer).
  • Improve navigation by including all pages and by using “breadcrumbs” that help users know where they are on the website. Make the navigation logical and consistent on each page.
  • Present important information in HTML rather than PDF documents, which are more difficult to read and search online.
  • Outline circumstances under which voters have the right to keep their registration information private (22 states offer).
  • Offer a dedicated hotline/helpline to the state election office (30 states offer).
  • List Web addresses or links to local election officials (34 states offer).
  • Display election results as a percentage of the vote (40 states offer).

Noteworthy Feature: A “Get to Know Your Election Officials” link in the special topics section of Michigan's voting information page helps users make sense of the state's election system and details election officials' responsibilities.

Initial Quick Fix: Provide information about the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot in the section of the Web site targeted to military and overseas voters (39 states do this).

Summary: Michigan's website is helpful to users and offers four out of five recommended lookup tools for voting information, but its overall score reflects the need to greatly improve its homepage and navigation.

www.michigan.gov/sos was assessed for content and lookup tools.

www.mi.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1633---,00.html was assessed for usability.