In Toronto's municipal elections, the one time I went to one, I noticed that the ballots didn't have a space to mark X on, but instead there were broken arrows to draw lines between, like this:

Complete the arrow ballot

Is there any specific motivation for using a complete-the-arrow selection rather than marking an X or filling in a bubble?

  • I don't have any evidence, but intuitively it seems that this solution is immune to the problem of accidentally indicating the item in the next column over (whereas a bubble to the right of the options could seem to be a bubble to the left of the next option over).
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 3:24
  • It could be made for further automated processing. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 7:27
  • 2
    According to this study citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/… there's no significant difference in effectiveness between complete-the-arrow ballots and fill-in-the-bubble. But "voters were clearly more satisfied with their experience with the bubble ballot." Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 8:54

2 Answers 2


Is there any specific motivation for using a complete-the-arrow selection rather than marking an X or filling in a bubble?

I recall being told at some point that it was down to the supplier of the automated ballot reading machines. The oval method is used by one set of companies, the arrow by another. The choice is driven by patent & technology issues more than usability. However I cannot find any references for this with a quick google so take the anecdote with appropriate grains of salt.

According to a the election reform project there are problems with the arrow method in comparison to the oval:

Residual votes (and especially overvotes) are less common on fill-in-the-oval ballots than on connect-the-arrow ballots. Voters tend to be familiar with the task of darkening an oval (from standardized tests and many government forms). In contrast, most Americans have never completed forms that required them to connect an arrow.[8] Also, a common problem with connect-the-arrow ballots is that arrows are found on both sides of a candidate's name (see #5), creating confusion about which arrow to complete.


One advantage of the line approach is that mistakes can be rectified without having to use another form. You can have a horizontal line --- mean 'Yes' and the mark -|- (i.e. a horizontal line with a vertical line through it) mean 'Mistake'. This approach is used on exams here in the UK, and it means the students do not have to fill out their answers again if they want to change an answer. (You can reselect an answer by circling it, but I assumed the OMR will flag this up for manual input). With the circle mark scheme, it is difficult to use a 'mistake' marking since people will use a variety of marks for their selection. If it says 'cross', 'tick' or 'circle', you can bet that people will do the exact opposite.

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