By default, candidate names display in a 2-column layout. This is good as it helps reduce the amount of scrolling a voter must do in order to view the candidates and also presents more candidate names in a single screen view. But election managers may override that default setting and display candidate names stacked vertically in a single column.
When to Use a Single-Column Layout
To be clear, the default is the better option almost all the time and should be left alone. But there are exceptions such as:
- Voting options may not be the names of human candidates, but rather a slightly longer string of text. Be very careful here and abide by the best practices described in What’s in a (Candidate) Name? The important takeaway from those best practices is that you should not switch to a single-column layout because you’ve appended a lengthy string of text to the candidate’s name. Follow the best practice and remove everything from the candidate name other than the candidate’s name and use the 2-column layout.
- There may be only two or three candidates running for office with the voter permitted to vote for neither of them. In that case, one candidate name will appear in the left column, another in the right column, and a third (if included) back on the left. The option to select no candidate appears underneath the candidates in the left column. In this case, there are three voting options (2 candidates, plus one option for selecting no one) on the left and only one voting option on the right. I do not find it a strong argument, but one could argue that makes the candidate in the right column appear isolated and missed entirely. With more than three candidates, those in the right column do not visually appear isolated as there will be other candidates in that column.
- At the time of this writing, (2018) this should never be the case, but your organization may actually still have some antiquated by-law that requires candidates be ordered vertically in some preset order. Of course, you should be using ballot shuffling to order candidates in random order on each request of the ballot, but should an organization be very far behind the times in this regard, a 1-column may be needed.
As stated immediately above, unless there is some legitimate reason why ballot shuffling should be turned off, it should be turned on to display voting options in random order on each request of the ballot. One- versus two-column layouts has nothing to do with that and with shuffling enabled, candidate names appear in random order regardless of the number of column used on the ballot.
Responsive Design Behavior
When the ballot is viewed on a device with a screen too narrow to permit showing two columns, it automatically responds to that and displays using a single-column layout. That is unchanged with this new development.
Setting the Layout on Positions
The column layout is a position property, edited at the Manage Positions link associated with an election, and may be set on a position-by-position basis. In order words, it does not apply to the entire ballot, but only those positions where an election manager wishes to use a single-column layout.