In Case You Missed It: Election Academy Receives NSF Grant to Study Pollworkers’ Effect on Election Security


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This came out early last week – when lots of other things were going on … so thought I’d share:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (November 5, 2012) – Researchers will study how poll workers contribute to the security of the American voting system as part of a new University of Minnesota project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by a team from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The “Poll Workers and Election Security” project includes sending observers to elections across the country over the next year to study how poll workers interact with voting technology at the opening and closing of the polls on Election Day-including a handful of pilot observations on Tuesday, November 6.

The project is part of the Humphrey School’s growing investment in modernization and professionalization of American election administration. “Over the last several years, we at the Humphrey School have recognized the need for election administrators to acquire and develop cutting-edge skills like their counterparts in other areas of public administration,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for Study of Politics and Governance and the principal investigator on the project. “This effort continues the pioneering work of Doug Chapin to improve the administrative capacity of election administrators and to use technology to reconcile the dueling partisan commitments to election integrity and ballot access.”

A key feature of the project is a partnership with Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenberry, two of the nation’s leading usability experts. “Dana and Whitney are part of a new focus in the field on making elections work better by applying principles of design to make election materials and processes more usable for voters and officials alike,” said Doug Chapin, director of The Election Academy at the Humphrey School. “I firmly believe that this knowledge, and the accompanying skills are essential parts of the 21st Century election official‟s toolbox and so I’m excited about this project‟s implications for the future of voting.”

“For some time, I’ve been telling election officials and security experts alike that if it isn’t usable, it isn’t secure,” said Dana Chisnell, who also collaborated with the Humphrey School on a MacArthur Foundation grant to produce a series of Field Guides for Ensuring Voter Intent. “While we often focus on the usability of voting technology and materials for voters, this project takes us in a new and previously unexplored direction by helping us learn how well designed such systems are for poll workers, who are the primary link between voters and their ballots.”

The $150,000 project is funded by the Trustworthy Computing initiative of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Computing and Network Systems via an Early-Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER). The research will continue through September 30, 2013.

Obviously, we’re really excited about this – while technology is involved, it focuses on the all-important human element that makes election administration so exciting. Thanks to all of my University colleagues, especially Larry Jacobs and the amazing Lea Chittenden, as well as to Dana and Whitney for being their usual election geek rockstar selves. Special thanks to NSF’s Jeremy Epstein who was instrumental in helping us think through this project and who, as a frequent pollworker, understands the extraordinary role that ordinary Americans play every Election Day.

As I’m fond of saying, stay tuned

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