Dana Chisnell is the person election officials call on when they need to do something about ballot usability and design.

Dana has trained thousands of election officials to test the design of their ballots to avoid costly mistakes and unwarranted attention. She’s given highly rated presentations and workshops for a dozen state election departments and conferences, as well as NASED and IACREOT.

Dana works extensively with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducting applied research. You may have seen the results of Dana and Dr. Janice C. Redish’s 2-year, in-depth study looking at ballot instructions across the country, where they established best practices for the use of plain language in ballots.

Following on the success of that project, with the expert technical editor Susan Becker, Dana developed style guidelines for system documentation for voting systems. She also developed the usability testing methodology now included in the VVSG human factors test suite for poll worker usability. She’s worked closely with NIST to verify the usability and accessibility tests for certifying voting systems to VVSG 2.1.

With Drew Davies of Oxide Design Co., Dana completed a usability study in 2012 to redesign the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) for the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).

You may have heard about Dana’s successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. With funding from 320 kickstarter backers, she started the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent series. These serious little books outline design guidelines for local election officials to take small steps to creating better experiences for voters and poll workers.

The Kickstarter campaign caught the attention of some folks at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which awarded a grant to Dana and her team at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in the summer of 2012. With this funding, the team has been able to promote, distribute, and expand the Field Guides series across the country in time for the November 2012 presidential election.

Because of the combined support of these backers, about 1,000 sets of the first 4 titles are being used in county, state, and federal boards, committees, agencies, and departments related to elections.

The team completed 2 large studies in winter 2013 with the funding from the MacArthur Foundation. One study reviewed county election websites. The other assessed printed voter education materials. These studies generated 3 more Field Guides, available in spring 2013.

Bringing ballot design into the 21st century, Dana worked with Kathryn Summers – an expert on accessibility for people with low literacy – at University of Baltimore and Drew Davies to create the Anywhere Ballot. In this project, funded by a sub-grant from ITIF’s Accessible Voting Technology Initiative, the team developed an accessible, responsive digital ballot user interface that can be used on any device. Try the prototype on your tablet.

She’s currently partnering with Whitney Quesenbery on an exploratory study funded by the National Science Foundation to understand the role poll workers play in ensuring the security of elections.

As a member of the Brennan Center for Justice’s ballot design task force, Dana advises on plain language, ballot design, and usability testing. She’s also one of the leaders of the Usability in Civic Life Project, which developed the LEO Usability Testing Kit, a simple training tool for local election officials.

In 2007, the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) sought Dana’s expertise on the research methods behind their ground-breaking Design for Democracy project, the EAC’s Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections.

For 5 years, Dana served as the mayor’s appointee to the San Francisco Ballot Simplification Committee. This body is unique in the nation, chartered with writing clear, objective, and unbiased instructions and summaries of ballot measures to be included in Voter Information Pamphlets for each city-county election.

Somewhere in there, she found time to co-author, along with Jeff Rubin, the Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition. She now travels the world, looking for new ways to help voters get their intended votes counted.


Twitter: @danachis
email: dana@civicdesigning.org


About the design

This WordPress template was developed by the wonderful people at Oxide Design Co. in Omaha, Nebraska. The design is based on the design specifications set out in the EAC’s Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections. Clever, no?