2020 Election HQ

How vote-by-mail envelope design can facilitate elections

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This post is excerpted from a DataPoint infographic that was initially made available to POLITICO Pro Premium subscribers on September 25, 2020.

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Only some of the U.S. uses a standardized design for mail-in ballot envelopes, but the design of vote-by-mail envelopes can influence how voters cast their ballot depending on how clearly sections are marked or laid out. It can also impact the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to accurately deliver votes to election officials. The nonprofit organization Center for Civic Design provides envelope design suggestions to state and local election offices nationwide to help facilitate and ease the voting process.

The U.S. Postal Service has its own recommendations and requires that some voter and election office information be included on vote-by-mail envelopes. For instance, it advises that text be printed in black ink on white or pastel-colored paper for legibility. The Center for Civic Design recommends also including design elements that clarify how to vote and indicate the origin and destination of mailed ballots. For example, a color visible on the front and back of envelopes can signify an election district, type of election, type of ballot and political party. Here are some examples of vote-by-mail envelopes created by the Center for Civic Design.

Moving toward standardizing vote-by-mail envelope design

No national design standard exists for vote-by-mail election envelopes. How election material looks are up to each state‘s election code. But even if a state develops an envelope standard, there is no guarantee that the design will be applied statewide. In California, for instance, a standardized design is in place but usage is voluntary.

Here are some states the Center for Civic Design has found to have moved toward standardizing the look of vote-by-mail envelopes.

ballot design across the country


ballot design and what is required

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