Development of an Online Course for Poll Workers to Improve Voting Experiences of Voters with Disabilities

Funded by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Principal Investigator: Frances Harris, PhD
Co-Investigators: Carrie Bell, MS, Karen Milchus, MS, Chris Langston, MS

People with disabilities experience many barriers - both social and physical - in our current voting system. Poll workers play a key role in how they experience the voting process. Helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, the ability to anticipate voter needs, and knowledge about voting procedures have all been linked to positive voting experiences. In contrast, poll workers who lack sensitivity and knowledge about interacting with voters pose a significant barrier to voting privately and independently.

To aid Board of Election officials in preparing poll workers to interact with voters with disabilities, CATEA researchers will create a free, nationally distributed online course that helps poll workers to recognize the needs of people with disabilities and aid them in the use of electronic voting machines. This project continues work begun in the first year of the ITIF Accessible Voting Technology Initiative (AVTI), where ethnographic observations and interviews among voters with disabilities identified key barriers to the voting process.

The course will include videos and scenarios to illustrate real world solutions to everyday voting problems of both voters and poll workers. Training topics and scenarios will be based on interviews and observations with voters, poll workers, training managers, and other election officials to ensure that the course addresses practical, real-world issues. Poll workers will benefit by increasing their ability and confidence to assist people with disabilities to vote independently and privately. And many of the 33 million adults with a disability will benefit by feeling an increased sense of belonging to and participation in this important civic activity.

We invite poll workers and poll worker trainers to take part in this study. Participation will involve a telephone interview, which will take approximately 60 minutes and which will be scheduled at a time that is convenient to you. You will be reimbursed $50.00 for your time.

For more information about this project, please email Frances Harris at