Saul Greenberg

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The 2000 USA Presidential Ballot in Florida

Remember this election? Bush and Gore were so close in the Florida vote that a recount was required: the outcome would determine who would become president. Here is what the ballot looked like. Take a close look at it from a design perspective.

There is indeed a major problem with this form. Critique it to discover the problem, and then compare your critique with another analysis below.


Some voters argued that they had ticked the wrong box on the ballot form: while they wanted to vote for Gore, they accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan. This was because Gore is the second item on the list on the right, but choosing the second hole in the middle actually votes for Pat Buchanan. While one could argue that the arrows clearly indicates which hole represents which candidate, its certain that some people selected the wrong person. While the error rate may be relatively small compared to the number of voters, the small difference between the two candidates in their votes --- just a few thousand --- may mean that the decision of who will be elected president of the United States may be the result of a design error.

In particular, we see the problem is one of mapping and causality. There is a poor visible and logical connection between the candidate and the hole to punch, leading to errors. Of course, there is no causality: although one can see that a hole is punched, there is no way of determining (except by mapping) on whether the punched hole actually belongs to the candidate.

How would you fix this ballot?

A Spoof

Of course, this led to many others deriding this bad design.

  1. This is a great video: Welcome to the Florida State Electronic Voting System. BoomChicago Amsterdam, 2004. Part of their show Mr. America Contest.
  2. Check out this spoof ballet below. Roughly translated, it says:
Count total the number of black points to vote for Al Gore, and count the white points to vote for George Bush