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The demands on election administrators have been growing in recent years.
Federal laws passed in the wake of the Florida recounts in the 2000 presidential election imposed new requirements on everything from voting equipment to provisional ballots to voter databases.
States have added to the complexity, too. Some have imposed voter ID laws that require election officials to apply a new layer of scrutiny on would-be voters. Others have added to administrative duties by expanding early voting, increasing access to absentee ballots and starting Election Day registration.
Meanwhile, social media and the 24-hour news cycle can easily turn a local bureaucratic snafu into a national news story -- like when voters in the Phoenix area had to wait hours to cast votes in this year's presidential primary.
Sharing expertise in the field has been difficult, but Doug Chapin, the director of the University of Minnesota's election administration program, hopes they can fix that.
"Because elections are so localized in this country, people tend to become experts on how things work in their own jurisdiction," he said. "This program allows them to put it in a larger national and thematic context. It's the first step in creating what I like to think of as a profession of election administration."
Because the program is online, it allows elections officials from across the country to connect with one another. The diversity of their experiences is important, said Gelms, because states handle various issues differently. And even in the same state, populous areas face a whole unique set of problems from spread-out rural areas.
An introductory class covers broad themes, including what Chapin characterizes as the three central tensions in election administration: central control vs. local control; access to the ballot vs. integrity; and fairness vs. finality. Other courses explore law, design, communication and even transportation -- and how they affect election administration.