Election Websites: Illinois

Election Websites: Illinois

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IL 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:

  • “For Voters” page contains targeted and clear information.
  • Prominent FAQs section, which is very useful to users who cannot articulate the subject of their search.
  • Extensive information about registering to vote and casting a ballot.
  • Comprehensive information on absentee voting, including eligibility, deadlines, and instructions on what to do if a requested ballot does not arrive in the mail, or is lost or damaged.
  • Information for military and overseas voters in a comprehensive section that includes details about the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.
  • Lookup tools that allow voters to view their registration status, polling place location, and provisional ballot status.

Recommended improvements include:

  • On the home page, prioritize and group together key data for voters and distinguish it from information for candidates or the media. Prominently place valuable information, such as the “For Voters” link in a central location instead of the uppermost region of the homepage, where it can be easily missed.
  • Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view their sample ballots (22 states offer) and absentee ballot status (29 offer).
  • Use informational labels to guide users to content from the home page, rather than vague filters such as “Top Documents” and “Top Pages.” 
  • Provide full texts for ballot measures (34 states offer).
  • Make content understandable to low-literacy users by writing at the eighth-grade level or lower.
  • Offer voting information for students (36 states offer).
  • Present important information in HTML rather than PDF documents, which are more difficult to read and search online.
  • Offer candidate information, including e-mail addresses (19 states offer), telephone numbers (23 offer), incumbency status (9 offer), statements (6 offer), and occupation (6 offer).
  • Organize information logically, so that users do not have to jump around the website or visit multiple pages to find related content.
  • Identify information that can be returned from the lookup tool in addition to registration status.

Noteworthy Feature: The site includes a “District/Official Search” by district number, official's name, voter's address or ZIP code. The search returns a list of all districts and officials that represent the particular address entered by the user.

Initial Quick Fix: Provide information for military and overseas voters on how to verify their registration status (27 states offer).

Summary: Illinois provides highly scored content on voting information and three out of five recommended lookup tools. However, users could have a challenging time finding the content they seek, accounting for a lower overall score.

www.elections.il.gov was assessed for content, lookup tools, and usability.