This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.
With the upcoming election on November 4th and voter turnout expected to break records, Chicago area voters may be looking to the Internet to find where they should go to vote. User Centric, Inc. (now GfK’s User Experience group), conducted a study on Illinois residents’ ability to locate their polling place using the Web. The study revealed 20% of the participants could not correctly locate their polling station.
Even for those who succeeded, the experience is fraught with frustration. Voting information is often not where people expect it to be – there is no clear or definitive source. The labeling and organization of sites is often so poor that site visitors are unable to find this basic information in a timely manner.
Thirty Illinois residents of voting age were asked to find their polling place for next week’s election using the Internet. Of the 30, six people either identified an incorrect polling location or failed to complete the task in the allotted five minutes. All the participants who failed expected to find the information on their respective local municipality website gravitated towards county-wide listings of polling places. These participants falsely assumed they could vote at any of the listed locations, at the local village hall, or at the location nearest their residence.
While 80% of participants were successful, lack of consistent information on municipal and state government sites created a lot of confusion. Much of the frustration that Illinois voters encounter when searching for their polling place could be addressed by understanding where voters expect to find polling place information and defining standards on government websites.
The majority of the successful participants assumed they would be able to find their polling location on their Illinois village’s website. However, four participants initially and unsuccessfully attempted to locate their polling place on various State of Illinois websites. These participants voiced frustration about their inability to find this information on the state government site. Participants who were unable to find their information on the city, county, or state websites eventually used other sources such as the Google voter information search feature, and sites such as voterinfonet.com, vote411, and justvoteorg.googlepages.com. (Participants who successfully located their polling station within the time limit did so within a wide range, 31 seconds to 4:44. The average completion time was just over two minutes.)