Designing Election Tools and Administering E-Day Command Centers
Washington D.C. – U.S.A. Date to be announced
Things will go wrong on Election Day: election machines malfunction, ballot shortages, polling places inaccessible or loss of power, equipment is inadequate to handle the volume of voters, or a state’s voter registration register or database becomes inaccessible, rendering it difficult to check-in voters, among many other potential issues. No matter the cause, each potential issue risks tilting a polling place or an entire jurisdiction/constituency into a crisis that results in longer lines and wait time to vote. In order to effectively address problems on Election Day, administrators must be able to receive communications from the field about issues affecting voting, assign remedies, and track their resolution.
Election administrators have a variety of tools at their disposal to respond to problems on Election Day. They may have access to county or local government infrastructure, to local law enforcement, to field staff roving the jurisdiction to provide IT and other support, and to communications networks for coordinating between polling places, elections headquarters, and field staff. Taken together, these tools form an Election Day command center, which is a centralized system for reporting, recording, and assigning responsibility for problems and tracking their resolution.
Once information is received from the field, a functional command center allows those responsible for decision making to communicate with the polling place and the proper internal elections office departments to find a workable solution. The command center infrastructure should provide some personnel and resource management mechanism that allows elections office staff to assign jobs to appropriate workers, such as field technicians, and to track the progress of issue resolution. Resolution tracking will ensure that issues are addressed, and that election administrators are aware of how long it is taking to address them.
Command Center: The databases, systems, and personnel available to a jurisdiction’s election administrator that are used on Election Day to address issues at polling places that affect the voting experience.
Command centers differ both in the breadth of their reach and their architecture. In some jurisdictions, administrators choose to purchase vendor-supplied, all-inclusive command center products. Over the last decade, manufacturers have expanded election technology available to command center solutions, though it is possible for election officials to develop locally tailored command center solutions for their own use. This course explores these less costly or no-cost solutions that election officials in developing democracies can use. Participants will acquire knowledge on the step by step process to establishing and running an Election Day Command Center within different electoral context.
Command centers benefit election administrators in responding to the challenges and breakdowns that inevitably occur on Election Day. A plan and system for tackling those issues is an essential component to improving the American voting experience by keeping wait times from growing to unacceptable lengths. Participants will be taken through the process and explore various command center systems, looking each at the following:
- Collecting the information
- Compiling data
- Identifying the problem
- Assigning responsibility
- Tracking resolution:
- Follow up
The data collected during Election Day is invaluable for planning for future elections. For example, after Election Day using command center data, election office personnel can evaluate performance issues at specific facilities and with specific poll workers. Staff can use this information to make informed decisions about whether to rehire a given poll worker or to locate or relocate a polling place at a given facility in future elections. In addition, staff can use command center-generated reports to assess the relative effectiveness of the allocation and use of supplies in the field as well as the reported formation of lines at polling places on Election Day. These reports guide future election administration decisions.
USICES avails itself of a wide range of experts who have trained in the past decade more than 500 election administrators and offered graduate academic programs on the subject in different universities across the United States and around the globe. In addition, we have included among the pool of experts, presentations from representatives from various U.S. federal, state, and local election departments and boards to add value and patronage to the training course, as well as provide an opportunity for participants to build networks.
Facilitators use activity-based approaches that maximize retention of knowledge and skills learned. In addition, the training is designed to promote or reinforce professional confidence, ethics, understanding of principles of best electoral practice, and access to networks of peers. Facilitators encourage participants to reflect on their better organization, providing comparative examples and alternative approaches, generating blueprints or support for organizational reform. Participants will be evaluated for each topic through quizzes and a final test after the training to complete the course and get a certificate.
Participants will also have the opportunity to receive practical on-site scenario and meetings with officials of United States based State and Local Election offices to have firsthand knowledge on how elections are administered in the United States. This presents an avenue to build networks and promote the exchange of experiences between participants and U.S. election officials.
Who can apply?
This course is primaries important for:
- Senior and Mid-level officials of Election Management Bodies (EMBs)
- Leaders of Civil Society Organizations directly engaged in election-related processes
- Officials of media organizations involved in elections
- Political party officials involved in the administration of Election Day activities.
- Officials working with election assistance providing organizations, graduate students, etc.
How to apply
Course instructors will then review the applications and CV/resume. Once the instructor accepts or denies your application, you will receive notification by email. If your application is accepted, you will receive further instructions by email, including payment information. Applicants will be notified about the outcome of their application within 10 working days. Applications will be accepted on a rolling base and will stop when the required number of participants is reached.
Application Deadline: To Be Announced
Cost of Training
The cost for the training is $1,000 and covers, tuition, study materials, breakfast and lunch for the duration of training, ground transportation to and from selected U.S. Federal, States, and County election offices. Complete payments must be received not more than 14 days after notification of acceptance. Participants are responsible for their own lodging and travel arrangements, including visas. USICES offer reduced hotel rates through some partner hotels. Selected participants will be provided with the list of these hotels.
Visas to the United States
Please email email@example.com with a request for an invitation letter to join the course. Once it has been emailed to you, it should be provided to the U.S. embassy at which you apply for a visa. Please note that you will need a tourist (B or B1) visa; because our courses are not a university program, a more complicated visa process for study in the United States is not necessary. Note also that we are not able to influence the decisions of U.S. embassies, but our staff will be attentive to respond to any questions the embassy may have about your application. Invitation letters are sent to applicants who have completed the application process and paid the course fee.
SPECIALIZED COURSE ON ELECTION DESIGN PROCESSES (Designing Election Related Materials and Communication)
This course aims to be practical. We hope that through it, you will gain a good understanding of principles for election design that you can use in your work every day — by applying those principles to materials from your own office.
For this course, we want you to practice on your own stuff. We’re pretty confident that there is a form or a web page or a notice that you’ve been unhappy with for a while. So, you’ll choose something from your own office to work on as your class project. From the very first unit, you’ll apply what you’re learning to your chosen project: a ballot, a form, a set of procedures, or some other item that you’d like to review, evaluate, and improve.
In each unit, we will tackle a different aspect of election design, from plain language to ballot design. You’ll practice your skills on a range of materials from forms to websites. And you will learn how to do usability testing in simple, effective ways.
We’ve pulled together short readings or videos, along with activities and assignments to go along with each unit. We have designed this course to be very interactive. The idea is that you get to practice a good design process of trying out ideas and then reviewing them with others and through usability testing.
In addition to your personal work on the project you choose, we’re opening up discussion boards where you can share your materials and your progress — and questions and experiences with trying to improve them. We expect you to take an active part in the weekly discussions. In fact, sharing and discussing your work is part of the assignments. It’s not cheating to build on ideas from others. In the real world, few designers work completely alone!
This course is innovative, identifies election design principles, and their application to the election administration process. At the end of this course, students will be able to:
- Identify good and bad design in election materials and use that knowledge to review materials or provide input to people creating election materials.
- Practice basic election design including plain language, layout, and design as applied to common election materials such as voter information, how-to-vote instructions, poll worker and candidate manuals, forms, and ballots.
- Apply design principles to real election materials within typical time, financial, and legislative constraints.
- Evaluate the usability of election materials for voters and other users, using a variety of techniques.
Topics will involve
Writing with focus on Voters Understanding (Plain Language): Plain language is one of the foundations of election design. We forget how much of the language of election administration is difficult for regular people to understand. As you learn about the principles of election design that apply to plain language, you will practice editing some typical election information following those guidelines.
Plain language Practicum: As you work on a larger document for your assignment, you will also practice a design process of making incremental changes towards a complete revision. This is a core concept in the course, which will be looked at in several different units. There are three short case studies to look a little more deeply than the simple untangling of text
Checking Your Design (Usability Testing): Typically, election officials collect a ton of feedback from various sources after an election: call centers, poll workers, media reports, and social media, even talking with voters. There is a method for finding out what users find frustrating or have questions about before an election called usability testing. This is more than a review with users. It is a kind of logic and accuracy test of your materials from the point of view of the audience.
Election Forms: Participants put together some of the basic principles of election design, plain language, and usability testing. Participants will start with forms and ballot because elections are full of forms, most of which have legal consequences for voters and the outcome of elections. The most important form is the ballot, which we will look at in detail later in the course.
Accessibility (Making Things Work for Everyone): Elections have a legal obligation to be accessible under international law. But this is easier when you understand what makes it difficult for people with all kinds of disabilities to participate in elections. We’ll start by looking at what your organization already does to support voters with disabilities. We’ll identify the legal requirements for accessibility in elections and discuss the different types of disability (vision, hearing, dexterity, mobility, cognitive, literacy).
Designing Election Department Websites: People are much more likely to look for voter information on the web than in a newspaper these days. Our research showed that many people in our study had been to government websites to get answers to various questions or to get government services, but few knew that their election office had an election website. Websites make up an indispensable part of the election information ecosystem. Creating a website that answers voters’ questions will help voters be confident in themselves and trust you more as an elections official. People want to be voters. They want to be ready to vote. They want to know what will be on their ballot so that they can prepare. First-time voters need to know what voting is like. Long-time voters need to know what’s new.
Voter Information: Choosing How to Communicate with Voters and Designing Voter Education banners, flyers, and Booklets. Participants will be able to:
- Identify opportunities in different media channels to have conversations with voters.
- Point to opportunities in the voter journey where you can deliver specific types of information.
- Compare the typical election process to how voters think about elections.
- Designing Ballots and Polling Place Materials.