Official Web Sites Lag Behind In Voter Info

Oct 16, 2008 11:13am

ABC News’ Huma Khan Reports: States need to considerably improve their election web sites in order to meet voters’ need for information about this year’s election, according to a new report published Thursday by The Pew Center on the States.

At a time when an increasing number of voters are turning to the Internet for information, state-administered web sites that provide polling and ballot information are difficult to find and navigate, the report said.

Pew ranked Iowa’s election web site as the best of the bunch — followed by Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

New Hampshire’s election web site ranked the worst, along with those of Mississippi, Illinois, Connecticut and New Mexico.

States do not need sophisticated tools and programming to be user-friendly, the report stated. One example is Texas’ elections web site, which is easy to understand, has a clear introduction and useful links, the study found.

What web sites do need to have is basic information that voters look for, such as a polling place locators and ballot generators. Some states’ web sites, such as South Dakota’s, do not even show up on the first page in search engines.

“The people who are charged with delivering voter information have been doing a less-than-stellar job at delivering it in a timely and accurate and up-to-date way using the web,” said Micah Sifry, co-founder and editor of the blog “It’s not seen as sexy or as important as it should be.”

Sifry himself experienced the deficiencies of the system in December when he went to New York’s elections web site to find out about the primary. Instead of new data, the official web site was still displaying  information about the September elections, three months after they had passed.

Updating web content can help states save money by eliminating the number of phone calls to state offices, said Kil Huh, research manager at The Pew Center on the States. It will also prevent voters from being misled to web sites that do not offer reliable data.

The full report can be accessed here.

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