Following a White House report urging universities to take on a role in training election officials, the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is launching a new online program that provides a certificate in election administration. The program, which will begin this fall, is the first of its kind in the country and aims to create consistency in election overseers’ training. The program comes at a time of technological change and recent close elections resulting in recounts, which have increased scrutiny on election offices’ operations. In Minnesota, election administrators are already required to attend a two-day training orientation and must receive 40 hours of additional training plus 18 hours for each year they work. Lower-level administrators also have to go to an orientation and receive 20 hours of more training.
Though not an added requirement, the 12-credit post-baccalaureate program will offer those with or receiving a bachelor’s degree courses in election law, design and management, among others.
In the United States, there are more than 8,000 local election jurisdictions, but the type of training election workers receive varies depending on location, said Humphrey School political science professor Larry Jacobs, who co-founded the program.
After Minnesota’s 2008 senatorial elections, where a close race led to a recount, incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman accused election offices of mishandling votes, which drew attention to how prepared election officials are for close races.
“There’s been no way to learn how to perform the career beyond just going and doing it,” said elections administrator for Ramsey County and University political science graduate David Triplett. “It’s unacceptable, especially when you have to be 100 percent accurate, 100 percent of the time.”