Tiny Fonts Don’t Rock the Vote

The New York Times reports that a recent local election frustrated many citizens by printing information on the ballot in a nearly illegible 7pt font. There is no New York state law that governs the proper sizing of text used on ballots, but now people are asking whether there should be. The polling locations do provide magnification and screen reading capabilities, but only upon request.

Who would you like to vote for today?

  • James Murphy
  • John Smith
  • Jane Doe

The default experience for text in a voting system should be at least 12pt, in a legible font. The American Printing House for the Blind publishes a nice set of guidelines for the various considerations a designer should make. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 provides detailed information on setting the proper contrast for text and ensuring that text can be properly resized.

With text that is viewed through a web browser, this issue can be worked around by allowing different sizes to be specified for the font, based on CSS styles. One technology we use all the time on the web to ease the reading experience is Readability. This technology works by replacing the fonts and colors of the original designer with a format optimized for the reader. Here is an example of what this page looks like when put through Readability:

Readability view of this blog post demonstrates the font is larger and easier to read