Even the New York Times is concerned about the morass of local confusion mixed sometimes with partisan "strategic incompetence" that U.S. elections often reveal.
The Times is probably right that a large part of the problem is the stinginess of jurisdictions that have to manage elections. Constituent eagerness for funding efficient elections is small -- until something goes wrong, and then the arguments turn passionate, heads roll, but little reform comes out of the noise.
Some folks are trying to make a constructive contribution to managing better elections. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has published a study of how election officials could design voting materials so that voters had an easier time understanding them. Better Ballots is available for download and well worth reading in its entirety.
But their findings needn't be restricted to election officials. Anyone preparing instructions for large numbers of people for any task could benefit from thinking about their checklist.
I didn't have much trouble coming up with a few suggestions of my own.
- Voters don't think about whether the offices they are voting for are "Federal," "State," "County," or "City." Legally the jurisdictional names will have to be included, but make it clear to folks, for example, that they are voting for a "Congressmember," not just a "United States Representative."
- make the type on your ballot large enough for older or near-sighted readers to read!