Inyo County, California supports voters with simplified instructions

This story was featured in our ELECTricity newsletter in August 2013. Sign up to receive more success stories from election offices across the country. And how is your election office using technology to run excellent elections? Tell us about it at hello@techandciviclife.org -- we'd love to share your story!


Spreading over 10,226 square miles, Inyo County is California’s second largest county. Its geography is a big part of why 60% of the county’s nearly 10,000 registered voters choose to vote by mail. The Registrar’s office employs 4 full-time employees, recruits 120 poll workers, and manages 15 voting precincts.

The Registrar’s office is responsible for maintaining the voter registration database, recruiting and training poll workers, setting up and delivering ballots, tabulating and certifying election results, and filing all of the statements required by the Political Reform Act.

Kammi Foote is Clerk-Recorder & Registrar of Voters for Inyo County. Kammi started election administration work in her twenties as a poll worker and steadily climbed her way up the ranks. Kammi was elected to her current position in 2010.

Like all serious election administrators, Kammi is committed to professional development. The county budget allows her an annual trip to the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) conference. It was at a CACEO conference where Kammi discovered Dana Chisnell’s Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent. Powered by groundwork and applied research, the field guides are aimed to assist local election officials in creating better experiences for voters and poll workers.

Best practices from research

Vol 2: Writing Instructions Voters Understand helped Kammi improve the Inyo County sample ballot booklet. According to Kammi, the voter instructions in their original version were technically correct, but they were much less effective than in the revised edition that she put together.

Using Dana’s design guidelines, Kammi distilled the instructions into clear illustrations and plain language that made them easier for voters to understand.

Take a look for yourself at the changes that Kammi implemented:

Inyo County's original guide, left, and revised version, right

Inyo County's original guide, left, and revised version, right

Would your voter materials benefit from some thoughtful revision? Check out these tips from the field guide that helped Kammi improve her county's ballot booklet.

Pro-tips from Vol 2: Writing Instructions Voters Understand:

  • Use short, simple, everyday words
  • Write instructions where the subject is “you" -- whether implied or stated
  • Tell voters what to do rather than what not to do

What strategies has your election office developed for implementing effective design and clear communication? Share your experience with us at hello@techandciviclife.org so that others can benefit from your great ideas.