[Image via FVAP]
A new study by the Federal Voting Assistance Program examines state UOCAVA websites and finds that while all but a few can be quickly located and contain the majority of the information voters need, most can improve their readability and ease of use by voters. FVAP has more:
Simple improvements can make absentee voting information on websites of the 55 U.S. states and territories easier to find and use by Service members, their eligible family, and U.S. citizens abroad covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). For example, according to the study released by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), only one state website meets readability standards for the information provided for UOCAVA absentee voters.
Every state and territory has specific absentee voting processes for UOCAVA voters, including use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register to vote and request their ballot, the option to receive their blank ballot electronically, and use of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) if their official ballot does not arrive on time.
Requirements for voter registration and types of electronic transmission permitted (email, fax, online portals) vary by state. Whether voters can submit their ballots electronically also varies by state.
“Especially this year, when absentee voting may be delayed or disrupted by service reductions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that state election websites clearly communicate with all voters covered under UOCAVA,” said FVAP Director David Beirne. “States and territories are welcome to use FVAP.gov as a resource for their UOCAVA content and to incorporate the best practices uncovered in our research.”
FVAP assessed three aspects of UOCAVA information on state and territory websites: how quickly UOCAVA information could be located, adequacy of the website’s information on registration and voting procedures, and how easy it was to understand and use the information. In most instances, a voter can quickly locate a state’s UOCAVA information, but the website of a few states and territories, it takes long, about one and a half minutes. On average, state websites included 9 out of 11 key pieces of UOCAVA voting information, but finding and understanding the information was rated the most difficult of the three tasks. [NOTE: This research was done in conjunction with FVAP by my colleagues on the Election Research team at the Fors Marsh Group – DMCj]
States can improve their websites and help military and overseas voters by:
- Implementing search engine optimization strategies
- Making it easy to find UOCAVA information on election homepages and through menus
- Putting all UOCAVA information on one page
- Organizing information by how a voter would go through the process
- Using lists or tables to organize information
- Avoiding jargon and removing unnecessary content
You can find the entire study at FVAP’s website here. As FVAP Director Beirne observes, UOCAVA voting information will be especially important this year given mail disruptions and the other challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic – so the information and suggestions here could be incredibly valuable to American voters around the world. Stay tuned …