Public transportation usability for early voting in Ohio

Ohio, one of a handful of swing states in the 2012 Presidential election, has had its share of controversies over early voting. However, very little attention has been paid to how people can find out out where and when they can vote, and how best to get there.  This is especially sensitive for those who depend on public transportation, who arguably will have the hardest time making it to the polls. How usable are the websites that Ohioans use to find out this information? For our first look, we take a very cursory spin through the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area), Hamilton County (Cincinnati area), and Franklin County (Columbus area) websites, looking specifically for public transportation directions.

We'll tackle Columbus today, and get to the details of Cleveland and Cincinnati throughout the week.

Summary
Basically, it's up to a user's Google prowess if they live near Cincinnati or Cleveland.  First, they must know to go to their respective county's Board of Elections website (Googling "Cleveland early voting", for example, is not fruitful). Next, if they know how to put in a Google address and find public transportation directions, they're golden.  If not, then it's phone calls and collecting paper bus or train maps. For Columbus, all roads still lead through Google, but they are much more SEO-friendly and pre-load information on the Google Maps, making it much easier to get to directions.

Columbus (Grade: A-) - When typing in "Columbus Early Voting" into Google, the first non-sponsored link is the Franklin County Board of Elections. Nice! When going to that website, the most salient thing in the middle of the page is the address of Early voting. Clicking on the link takes you directly to Google Maps.  From there, the user would have to choose to Get Directions, and switch the directions to public transportation.

However, there is also a direct link just above the fold that says "Get COTA directions".  This goes to the COTA (public transportation) site.  Unfortunately, the destination address isn't prepopulated, so the user will have to go back and get it.  However, once putting that address in, the resultant Google Map goes directly to public transportation directions.

As an aside, Franklin County has decided to hold early voting not at any of the previously used  voting locations, but at a vacated Kohl's Department store on the North side. They also decided to not have standard hours, instead having different hours almost every week, and no weekend hours.  This makes public transportation even trickier!

Franklin County Board of Elections homepage

Franklin County Board of Elections homepage

 

COTA trip planner

COTA trip planner

Cincinnati - details later, but we give it a B+.  Try a Google Search or the website in the meantime!

Cleveland - again, details later, but we give it a C+. Again, feel free to try a Google Search or the website in the meantime!