(Geek)Town-Gown Relationships: electionlineWeekly on College/University Programs for Elections

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With students (including the University of Minnesota!) heading back to school next week (if not already), electionlineWeekly’s Mindy Moretti has a look at how the nation’s institutions of higher learning are partnering with election officials to help them get the training and research assistance they need:

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer (sob) and co-eds across the country are headed back to ivy-covered campuses (if they aren’t already there) for another academic year.

While places like Harvard, the University of Minnesota and the University of Connecticut have been working with state and local elections officials for a while now, a new crop of elections-related programs are popping up at campuses across the country.

This is just a snapshot of some of the partnerships and programs we’ve seen pop up over the summer. If you know about one that we missed, let us know.

Earlier this summer, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced a collaboration between the secretary of state’s office and Ohio’s community colleges.

“To maintain the integrity of our elections, we must constantly be working at both the state and local levels to innovate and improve our elections security measures,” Husted said. “While this can sometimes be a daunting task, Ohio’s two-year colleges are well-positioned and have the expertise to help us achieve these goals.”

Counties will be able to spend some of their HAVA 2018 funds to pay local community colleges help guide and assist them in complying with cybersecurity requirements.

“Federal entities like the National Security Agency (NSA) and the DHS are realizing the many ways two-year colleges can assist in reducing cyber vulnerability and enhancing data security,” said Jack Hershey, President and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. “Several of Ohio’s community colleges have already stepped up to the plate to take active roles in this effort.”

The Clark County board of elections and Clark State Community College were one of the first to announce a partnership.

“We will assist them with a cybersecurity audit of their equipment, software and their election equipment to ensure proper security standards,” Clark State Cybersecurity Professor Dan Heighton told the Springfield News-Sun. “We are auditing their currently existing equipment to make sure they meet industry standards.”

In Indiana, Ball State University has partnered with the secretary of state’s office to provide training to elections officials in security procedures. The Certificate Program in Election Administration, Technology and Security will welcome its first 21 students this fall. The program will welcome new students every six months and is open to county clerks, election officials and those who want to do those jobs in the future.

“Today’s election official really needs to be an information technology specialist, unlike in the days without electronic equipment,” program co-director Bryan Byers told WFYI.

Hendricks County Elections Clerk Tammy Dooley will be part of the inaugural class at Ball State.

“It is an honor to be chosen to participate in the CEATS program,” Dooley told the Hendricks County Flyer. “This program will help me to be more proficient in a number of areas, for example, election and procedural law, personnel training and management, and cybersecurity just to name a few. This program is the first in the state that meets such a diverse need to aid election administrators in adapting to an ever-changing election environment to better serve the voters of our community.”

The secretary of state’s office is providing grants of up to $2,500 to attend the courses.

Earlier this month, the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy announced the creation of the new Cyber Policy Initiative(CPI). According to the university, the academic initiative will advance the emerging field of cyber policy and examine the intersection of national security, politics and technology.

CPI’s first collaboration was at DEFCON’s Voting Village where they provided free cybersecurity training to state and local elections officials.

Teaching the next generation
While many of the partnerships mentioned are programs where colleges and universities work directly with state and local elections officials, there are also a few programs out there teaching the next generation a thing or two about elections and election administration.

The University of Michigan offers a course to students called Security Digital Democracy. According to the write up of the course, taught by Associate Professor J. Alex Halderman, “…[i]n this course, you’ll learn what every citizen should know about the security risks–and future potential — of electronic voting and Internet voting. We’ll take a look at the past, present, and future of election technologies and explore the various spaces intersected by voting, including computer security, human factors, public policy, and more.

And it’s not just all election security and training. Florida State University is offering a course that covers the state’s ongoing legal battle over felons’ voting rights. According to WJCT, the class of about 20 students is open to graduate and undergrad students. It brings in students from the Colleges of Law, Social Work, and Social Sciences and Public Policy.

Mark Schlakman, senior program director of the FSU Law School’s Center for Advancement of Human Rights told the local television station that the idea of the class was to have students, whose fields of study are related to the issue, discuss it as the legal battle unfolds.

The class also relies on guest speakers who are familiar with the judicial system and voting rights. During one class, Leon County Sheriff Walk McNeil discussed the impacts of recidivism.

“One of the things that, as I talked to those persons who were coming back, is that, there is no hope,” McNeil said. “When you take hope away from a person, and you say, ‘You are forever not a citizen of your community, because you don’t have the fundamental right of every citizen.’”

Thanks to Mindy for sharing this story; it’s great to see so many institutions join in the effort to help the election officials of today and tomorrow know what they need to succeed. Whether you’re heading back to school, dropping someone off at the bus stop or the dorms – or just missing the smell of a brand-new Trapper Keeper – hope this Labor Day weekend finds you well and ready for the fall (and Election Day) and beyond! Stay tuned and see you next Tuesday, September 4.

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