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NOTE: This piece originally appeared in the June 2, 2016 electionlineWeekly.

Now, more than ever, there is attention to the field of election administration and the people who keep the nation’s democracy – and the voting systems that support it – running, and running well.

Last summer, I was pleased to announce that the University of Minnesota had approved an online Certificate in Election Administration, which would allow students to complete a program of courses culminating in a Regents-approved graduate certificate. Courses are offered entirely online, with weekly self-paced assignments and discussions leading to a final paper, project or exam.

The program is aimed at three communities of people:

  1. Current election administrators who seek to expand or deepen their knowledge of the field, especially those who seek to place their state/local experience into a larger national and theoretical framework [NOTE: We know that this fall is likely not the best time for many of you, but going forward we can offer group rates for jurisdictions or other organizations who enroll 5 or more students];
  2. Present or future graduate students in public administration or other disciplines who wish to use the skills they’re developing to help form the next generation of election administrators nationwide; and
  3. Professionals in other fields – law, design, information technology, journalism, etc. – who are interested in bringing their skills and experiences to the field of elections and want to put them into context and/or who wish to gain a deeper understanding of election administration as part of their ”day jobs”.

We are also deeply interested in finding ways to reach students interested in civic engagement – particularly those from traditionally-underrepresented communities, where training and education in election administration become not only the basis for a lifelong career but a means to making the profession look more like the population of voters it serves.

Registration is now open for students nationwide for Fall 2016 for four courses:

PA 5971 – Survey of Election Administration | Doug Chapin (3 credits)
Comprehensive course on the general building blocks of election administration from voter registration to recounts [offered Fall and Spring] [NOTE: this course is also open to undergrads and is an excellent way to dive into the current debates over election administration across the nation!]

PA 5972 – Elections and the Law | Doug Chapin (3 credits)
An introduction to legal concepts and structures, aimed at helping election administrators work effectively for – and against- the lawyers they encounter on the job [offered Fall and Spring]

PA 5973 – Politics, Policy and Election Administration | Larry Jacobs (2 credits)
Lively and penetrating dive into the big arguments about democracy that help administrators frame concrete decisions about how to organize and administer elections.

PA 5975 – Election Design | Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery (2 credits)
An introduction to design concepts coupled with opportunities to apply them to problems and projects related to the field of elections.

In addition, we have several courses under development for Spring 2017 and beyond:

  • Data Analysis in Election Administration | Tammy Patrick (2 credits)
  • Voter Participation and Community Outreach | TBD (2 credits)
  • Budgeting | TBD (1 credit)
  • Organizational Management | TBD (1 credit)
  • Communication | TBD (1 credit)
  • Capstone Project in Election Administration | Staff (2 credits)

Moreover, as the program grows, we have plans to expand our offerings to match the evolving nature of the field … so please let us know if there are one or more topics, not listed above, that you think would be a good basis for a course for you and your peers. We’re also open to partnering with specific states and localities to assist with regular training or updates for your jurisdiction.

As I’ve said before, I’m very excited to be a part of a project aimed at broadening educational opportunities in election administration to reach the next generation of election officials. Come check us out, and tell your friends and colleagues to do so as well – the University of Minnesota wants you!

To learn more, please visit our webpage or contact me or my Humphrey colleague Lea Chittenden … and thanks to my friend and partner in electiongeekery Mindy Moretti at for the opportunity to share with all of you!

[Please consider signing up- and stay tuned! – ed.]