“Form Follows Dysfunction”: Mo Rocca and Todd Oldham on the Pitfalls of Bad Ballot Design

“Casting a ballot in this country is anything but simple,” according to journalist Mo Rocca (whom you may have difficulty taking seriously given his satirical start at the “The Daily Show”). In the last of his four-part video series for the New York Times, Rocca visits designer Todd Oldham to discuss the befuddling layouts of American voting ballots. While Oldham’s background is in interior and product design rather than the graphic sort, he gives Rocca the run-down on how officials could make ballots more navigable for voters — and less like “drunken driving tests.”

Given that elections are tomorrow, perhaps it would’ve been more prescient to schedule this interview in a way that officials would have time to do something about it, but it’s an important issue that needs to be properly considered. It’s bad design, after all, that’s led to the loss of “literally hundreds of thousands of votes,” since the historically embarrassing 2000 election, according to Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Public Justice who warns that “Bad design can change the results.”

Hoping to avoid a repeat of that shameful debacle “that kind of ruined the world,” and looking to our neighbors to the North as an example, Oldham proposes tossing the outdated, “advent calendar”-looking design that’s so counter-intuitive to our inner functions and putting forth a “handsome” national standard done by someone who, well, knows what they’re doing — “A great art book designer, for example,” Oldham suggests. Surely we would all benefit from a more “handsome” way to pick the president.

Watch the video here now, and vote at your designated polling station tomorrow.

— Janelle Zara