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electionlineWeekly — July 21, 2016

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

First-in-the-nation course on election design
Learn and practice plain language, design and usability skills

by Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell
Center for Civic Design

If you want to bring out your inner election designer, or just learn how identify good and bad election design, there’s a new opportunity designed just for you.

As part of the first-in-the-nation Certificate in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota, we are really proud to be teaching the first-in-the-nation course on election design. The program is the brainchild of Doug Chapin, aiming at current and future election administrators and anyone interested in civic engagement.

The course is entirely online, and built on the idea that adults learn best by doing. Through small, weekly assignments students practice new skills with real election materials.

We will be there with students the whole way, with group discussions and collaborative reviews because we’ve seen that the best ideas happen when there’s a place to brainstorm and people to do it with. Usability testing will help students learn from their own voters (and to see how to make it part of all of their work).

We encourage students to work on real projects that need doing in their election offices, so they can improve instructions, forms, websites, or other election materials while they earn two credits.

In case you’re wondering if we’ve lost our minds: We know. This is a big election year. We are with you. That’s why we’ve built “project weeks” into the schedule, so students can fit the work around the election crazy and a generally busy schedule. Of course, we plan to pay attention to what’s happening out there in election-land, bringing those lessons into the online classroom. Students will come away with more tools and skills to help them understand better where process problems are coming from, and how to remedy them through design.

The 16-week course covers the voter journey through an election and all the ways an election office communicates with voters. Think of the titles of the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent and you’ll have a good idea of the topics — like:

  • Plain language
  • Usability testing
  • Election forms
  • Accessibility
  • Designing election department websites
  • Voter education and voter guides
  • Writing instructions
  • Ballots
  • Polling place materials

Hoping we’ll see you in class!

Here’s the fine print:

  • The official name is PA 5975 - Election Design
  • Class starts on September 6, 2016
  • Anyone can take the course – you don’t have to be admitted to the program
  • Students will average 6 hours a week of course work, including interacting with the instructors and other students
  • Students earn 2 credits
  • Enroll in the certificate program by August 1, or register for the course by August 12.

Information about enrolling in the program and registration for just this course is on the program page or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for all the details.

To keep up with what’s going on at the Center for Civic Design, visit our site civicdesign.org for news and showcases of success stories from around the country.

Subscribe to our (infrequent) mailing list for more practical tips: tinyletter.com/civicdesigning