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Researchers 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).
- 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.
- Extensive information about casting a ballot, including step-by-step instructions for how to vote at the polls.
- A multi-purpose lookup tool allows voters to check their registration and absentee ballot status and find their polling place.
- A list of state and federal candidates, and their complete contact information.
- A list of recognized political parties and links to their websites.
- Links to state and federal campaign finance data.
- Ballot-measure information, including full texts and summaries.
Recommended improvements include:
- Allow access to the polling place lookup tool by street address, instead of personal voter record information (27 states offer).
- Explain whether a person's voter registration record is considered public information (30 states offer).
- Provide information about whether voters, in certain circumstances, have the right to keep their record private (22 states offer).
- Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view a sample ballot (22 states offer) and the status of their provisional ballot (19 offer).
- Provide voter registration information for those who are homeless (35 states offer) or hospitalized (27 offer), or reside in long-term-care facilities (25 offer).
- Use consistent labels for links and pages so that when users click on “Register to vote,” for example, they are taken directly to registration information instead of a broader “Voter information” page.
- Improve 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.
- Present important information in HTML rather than PDF documents, which are more difficult to read and search online.
Noteworthy Feature: Montana's “MVP-My Voter Page” multipurpose lookup tool includes several unusual features, such as simple instructions for how to use the tool, a demonstration using a sample voter record, a brief “How do I . . . ?” FAQ that answers common questions, and a request for feedback from site visitors.
Initial Quick Fix: Retain and archive candidate lists and ballot-measure pages on the website (31 states offer).
Summary: Montana's website offers three out of five recommended lookup tools and scores well on usability.
www.sos.mt.gov/Elections/index.asp was assessed for content, lookup tools, and usability.