Election Websites: Minnesota

Election Websites: Minnesota

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MN 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:

  • Comprehensive information on voter registration, including eligibility and residency requirements, registration forms and deadlines, and information for college students, felons, the homeless, those who are hospitalized, and residents of long-term-care facilities.
  • Clearly described lookup tools for registration status, polling place location, sample ballots and absentee ballot status. A model home page, with easy-to-scan text and prominent links to content grouped by audience. Users can easily distinguish the information for voters from that intended for candidates and media.
  • Exemplary navigation and information presentation, targeted to specific voter audiences and consistent on each page.
  • Comprehensive sections of information for military and overseas voters and for people with disabilities.
  • Extensive information for absentee voters, including eligibility requirements, applications, and deadlines for absentee applications.
  • Candidate information, including all state and federal offices, party affiliations, street addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and links to websites.
  • Descriptions of elected offices and lists of official political parties with links to party websites.
  • Concise writing, using bullet points and hyperlinks to direct users to key content.

Recommended improvements include:

  • Note whether absentee voters can get help with marking ballots (18 states offer).
  • Explain what identification, if any, is required to cast a ballot at a polling place (50 states offer).
  • Archive information such as ballot measure texts, summaries, and nonpartisan analyses, in addition to election results (31 states offer).
  • Enhance accessibility for people with visual disabilities by using scalable fonts that allow users to easily change the size of text on a website; “skip navigation links” that jump to the main content on a page for those using screen-reading software; and change the color of visited links.
  • Offer candidate information that includes incumbency status (9 states offer), statements (6 offer), and occupation (6 offer).

Noteworthy Feature: Minnesota uses voter-friendly language, rather than jargon, to give comprehensive information to various audiences, including the homeless, felons, those dealing with home foreclosures, and voters who fear for their safety. The “MNVOTES Introduction to Voting Workshop,” a voter outreach and education project run by the secretary of state, uses free community presentations to encourage citizens to “get registered, get informed, and go vote.”

Initial Quick Fix: Provide a way for military and overseas voters to verify their registration status (27 states do this).

Summary: Minnesota site scores very high and is a model for the nation. Users are provided with every recommended voting information lookup tool, in addition to comprehensive information about the candidates and ballot measures. The website is easy to use and contains accessible information for many groups of voters.

www.sos.state.mn.us was assessed for content and lookup tools.

www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=4 was assessed for usability.

*Minnesota does not need to give voters access to a lookup tool for provisional ballot status because it permits voters to register on Election Day, making provisional voting unnecessary.