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
- Designing election department websites
- Voter education and voter guides
- Writing instructions
- 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.
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
II. Electionline Underwriting
For almost 15 years, electionline.org has brought you all the election administration reform news and information of the day through electionlineToday and of the week through our weekly newsletter electionlineWeekly.
Because of the generosity of such organizations as The Pew Charitable Trusts, Democracy Fund and the Hewlett Foundation we were able to bring you that news and information for free and free of advertising.
In order to continue providing you with the important news of the day and week, beginning September 1 we will be offering monthly underwriting for our daily and weekly postings (think more NPR, less local radio and television).
Underwriting will be available for electionlineToday, the weekly email that reaches about 4,800 inboxes each week and the weekly newsletter.
We will accept underwriting from a variety of entities in the elections world, but will not accept political advertising.
Job posting and marketplace listings from elections offices seeking to sell/trade voting equipment will remain free of charge.
III. Our Say
Election Websites: A delusion asking for trouble
By Jim Dickson
Responsible public policy and the law require that all election related information and processes made available to all voters must be accessible. That means that the format it is saved in must be something that a screen reader used by individuals who are blind or visually impaired can read.
The Presidential election is almost upon us, total compliance for November would be difficult if not impossible. However, there is one small step towards accessibility that election officials could take in time for November's election.
Make your sample ballot accessible!
Americans with disabilities want to be educated voters. Accessible sample ballots would obviously help us. We could also take less time in the polling place if we already had our minds made up for whom we were going to vote for if we could use an accessible sample ballot. The sample ballot could be made accessible without disrupting the rest of the Election website. There are several vendors that have the ability, for a reasonable price of course to make the sample ballot accessible.
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the largest cross disability membership organization in the country, has on our website www.ncil.org/votingrights a list of experienced companies which specialize in website accessibility. Plus, other resources are there to educate election officials about what needs to be done to make their entire website accessible.
Recently the New York State Board of Elections was sued in Federal court because their online voter registration system was not accessible.
Don't be next! Start now to make your website accessible by developing a plan in conjunction with a first step of providing an Accessible Sample Ballot.
Jim Dickson is the co-chair of NCIL’s Voting Rights Subcommittee and one of the founding members of the United States Election Assistance Commission's Board of Advisors.
IV. Election News This Week
- This week, Reuters reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has curtailed its elections observers program and observers will only be sent to five states in November. According to Reuters, the curtailing of observers is a result of the 2013 Shelby v Holder ruling. Federal observers can still be sent to monitor elections but only when authorized by federal court rulings. Currently, courts have done so in five states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana, and New York.
- As far as elections go, New York City hasn’t had the greatest 2016, but there was some good news recently with the launch of voter registration forms in five new languages—Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French and Arabic. “No one should be disenfranchised because of their language,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the launch of the forms. “These voter registration forms in five new languages will help us involve even more New Yorkers in the voting process. New York is a city of immigrants, and these forms will help New Yorkers of every background cast their ballots on Election Day.” According to NYC.gov, nearly half of all New Yorkers speak a foreign language at home.
- Although it cannot be completely ruled out, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan’s clerk said that it is unlikely than any absentee ballots were on the Postal Service truck that went up in flames recently. A post office official told elections officials that because ballots are oversized mail, they most likely were not on that particular truck, but absentee ballot applications may have been. Voters are encouraged to reach out to their local elections officials to confirm the status of their application and/or ballot.
- If your summer vacation plans include a trip through the Garden State, be sure to stop in Piscataway, New Jersey to check out a new exhibit at Rutgers University called “The Elusiveness of Progress: Voting Rights in America.” “It is important to know the evolution of the Voting Rights Act, not only to understand our nation's checkered past but also to grasp the covert manner in which one of our most progressive bills is being subverted,” Paul Kibala, Kilmer Library reference assistant and curator of the display told New Brunswick Today.
- While campaigns and some elections officials are looking at ways to use PokemonGo as a get out the vote tool for November, one Florida elections official is warning players to stay away! Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley is concerned about early voting sites and polling places that also serve as Pokemon stops being overrun by people not there to vote. "Do not go into to an early voting area or Election Day polling place in search for an imaginary character on the Pokémon go app, can't stress that enough," Corley told 10News. "They could be arrested" Under Florida law, only registered voters and poll workers are allowed inside a voting precinct with a 100-foot buffer from the entrance for no solicitation. "I never thought hashtag Pokémon Go would be part of our poll worker training and explaining that to some of our senior citizen poll workers is going to be an interesting conversation," Corley said.
- Personnel News: Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill has been named the new president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Citing personal reasons, Jim Williams resigned as Oregon’s elections director this week, effective immediately.
V. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have introduced a bill that would expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. According to The Oregonian, Rep. Early Blumenauer is handling the legislation in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election. It would also amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide for automatic voter registration through a state's department of motor vehicles.
Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $1.2 million in state spending that would have gone to help local elections officials conduct the state’s very first early voting in advance of the November 8 presidential election. “I am very disturbed. This is very irresponsible,’’ Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who oversees state elections and is a strong supporter of the early-voting system told The Boston Globe.
Also in Massachusetts, the Salem City Council is not moving forward with an effort to provide ballots in Spanish. The council’s Committee on Ordinances, Licenses and Legal Affairs voted 3-2 to keep the issue in committee for the foreseeable future.
Rhode Island: If you can’t beat them, join them! Under a proposed regulation change, voters would be permitted to take ballot selfies in Rhode Island polling places. “It’s the way of the world for this generation,” board member, Stephen P. Erickson said. “They grow up with excessive sharing. They’re gonna do it.” Voters would still be prohibited from photographing others inside the polling place.
VI. Legal Updates
National: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has set Sept. 8 as the hearing date in the case against U.S. Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Brian Newby and his decision to allow Alabama, Georgia and Kansas to request proof-of-citizenship on the federal voter registration forms.
Hawaii: The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that state elections officials erred four years ago when they used a new procedure to determine the number of ballots to distribute to polling places. According to News of Hawaii, the lawsuit will now be sent back to Maui Circuit Court for further proceedings.
Kansas: Once again Kansas has been sued over its proof-of-citizenship law, this time by the American Civil Liberties Union and this time over the dual voting system the state has implemented which will allow suspended voters to cast their ballot for president but not for other state/local elections. The ACLU contends that blocking these voters from state and local elections runs afoul of a previous ruling by a Shawnee County judge that Secretary of state Kris Kobach lacks the authority to create a dual voting system.
Texas: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered that Texas change elements of its voter ID law. The Court said the law violates the Voting Rights Act and discriminates against minorities. According to the Dallas Morning News, the 9-6 decision does not nullify the entirety of the law, so voters will need to show ID in November, but a lower court will need to create some type of interim relief, such as affidavits.
Utah: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has filed suit in the 6th District Court asking the court to vacate the Wayne County Commission GOP primary alleging that the winning candidate was illegally helped by his wife, who is the deputy county clerk. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the lawsuit says the candidate’s wife, Deputy County Clerk Coral Brinkerhoff, used "her official position to improperly change voter affiliations" to allow some people to vote as Republicans, and used her position improperly "to determine who had, or had not, voted by mail" and called some to urge them to vote for her husband.
Wisconsin: U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman has ruled that voters in Wisconsin who do not have a photo ID may still vote as long as they sign an affidavit swearing to their identity. "Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort," Adelman wrote in his 44-page decision. The judge issued his preliminary order because he found that those arguing for a pathway for some voter without IDs were "very likely" to succeed.
VII. Tech Thursday
National Tech: This week, Google added a new feature to its search engine that should help simplify the voting process. Whenever someone types “register to vote” into the search engine, they will be prompted with a set of guidelines and then guided to the information about their state including registration information and deadline
Arizona: Pima County has launched the “Check Your Registration” search option on the county’s elections website. The new option will allow voters to see the details of their voter registration to ensure that they are up-to-date. Voters will also be informed about what elections they are eligible to cast a ballot in.
Florida: The secretary of state’s office has unveiled a Voter Education Toolkit, available on the state’s elections website, that provides voters with an elections checklist, talks about the different ways to cast a ballot and includes a “Quick Facts” about the upcoming primary.
Virginia: Mathews County Registrar Carla Faulkner is hoping to keep county voters up-to-date on all the information they need for the upcoming election through the county’s new Facebook page Mathews Votes.
VIII. Opinions This Week
Arizona: Voters with disabilities
Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights
Minnesota: Ranked choice voting
Nevada: Election fraud
Ohio: Voter purges
Pennsylvania: Automatic voter registration
West Virginia: Student voters
IX. Available Funding/Awards
2016 Baxter Award for Election Practitioner
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems' (IFES) Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contribution of a professional whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter. Baxter had a firm commitment to the principles of local ownership, transparency and sustainability of electoral administration.
The Baxter Award honors an election practitioner with a proven track record of exceptional dedication to empowering people to have a say in the way they are governed. IFES presents the Baxter Award annually to one individual at a ceremony typically held in concurrence with IFES' U.S. Election Program or Chief of Party Conference.
The recipient of the Baxter Award must agree to receive the award personally at IFES' ceremony.
X. Upcoming Events
Promising Reforms to Voting and Elections, a Nonprofit VOTE Webinar — turnout in the United States is lower than most advanced democracies. We can do better. In this webinar, we’ll discuss progress on positive reforms to voter registration and voting, like online and automatic registration, same day registration, early voting, vote by mail, and others that have the potential to increase voter turnout. When: July 28, 2pm-3pm Eastern. Where: Online. For more information and to register, click here.
National Conference of State Legislators Summer Meeting — the 2016 Legislative Summit will be held in Chicago. The elections portion will include: Politics 2016: State Election Preview, Evaluating Elections, What to Do If You’ve Got a Disputed Election, Technology: Improving Elections One Bit or Byte at a Time? And Helping our Military Vote. When: Aug. 8-11. Where: Chicago. For more information and to register, click here.
Election Center Annual Conference— Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we head into the stretch of the Presidential Election year. We will share substantive elections issues including crucial information from federal agencies to local election of cials sharing practical information for day to day election administration operations. This is the also the time to honor and celebrate the winners of the Election Center’s acclaimed Professional Practices Papers’ Program. You will not only hear the winning presentations but you will take home all of the innovative programs and ideas that were submitted by your colleagues in other jurisdictions around the country. When: Aug. 16-20. Where: Philadelphia. For more information and to register, click here.
XI. Job Postings This Week
Customer Relations Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, Chicago, Illinois— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic, Customer Relations Manager, based in the Chicago, Illinois area! This position will be responsible for providing world-class customer service in order to achieve our core purpose of delivering solutions for the advancement of fair, accessible, and secure elections! You will problem solve, collaborate, create and improve processes, and make our customers successful in the execution of seemingly impossible tasks. Excitement lives here!. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply click here.
Product Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Denver, Colorado office. This role is responsible for responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems elections products; providing elections support services and customer training; and interfacing directly with customers, co-workers and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic — project managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the project manager directs activity, solves problems and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Proposal Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston— newly created proposal writer position will be part of a dedicated team producing competitive responses to State and County government RFPs. Responsibilities and Tasks: Write engaging content about technical subjects; format final documents using the company style sheet; collaborate with a team of subject matter experts; edit proposal drafts; respond to deadlines and move quickly; contribute to a database of response text, figures and technical descriptions and benefit from professional growth opportunities. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Technical Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston — our small and growing team of technical communicators has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience. Documentation is key to success in the election systems domain. Deliverables include tasks and supporting information, and, highly scrutinized specifications and plans. All products and their documentation are certified by federal or state agencies; evaluation is performed by demanding government laboratories. Once products are certified, documentation supports the work of users under pressure whose skills range the technical spectrum. Key Responsibilities: Work collaboratively with fellow communicators and the Engineering, Quality Assurance, Technical Support, Compliance/Certification, Business Development, and Executive Management functions; develop deep understanding of the federal regulations governing voting systems, and, the ability to interpret issues raised by delegated federal and state reviewers in partnership with Compliance/Certification; meet governmental standards and write appropriately for target audiences: voters, poll workers, election officials and their technical staff, and voting system test laboratories; quickly grasp complex technical concepts and make them easily understandable through prose and graphics; deal gracefully with multitasking and constant change; create and modify single-sourced, conditionalized, reusable content in MadCap Flare; adhere and contribute to working styles and standards, information architecture, and documentation production process; and respond to documentation tickets. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.