The epic journey of American voters

Every 4 years, I get a lot of requests to talk about design in elections from the UX and civic tech communities. Watch the talk at Midwest UX in 2018.

Dana on stage in Chicago, showing the path of the burdened U.S. voter

I’ve also written quite a bit about the hurdles that U.S. voters encounter, based on research I did before and while I was at the Center for Civic Design. There’s also a poster that you can download.


Today, January 31, 2020, is my last day as co-director of the Center for Civic Design. For 6 years, I’ve been co-leading CCD with Whitney Quesenbery. My next adventure is as a founder-partner in a new civic incubator at the National Conference on Citizenship, a federally chartered non-profit based in Washington, DC.

I started doing work in election design in the early 2000s, when Whitney and I first worked together with an awesome collection of other fun folks on volunteer projects through a project of the then Usability Professionals Association (now User Experience Professionals Association). Through the last 2 decades, have become an expert on design in elections, advising and training election administrators all over the U.S. and Canada.    

It was fun. And challenging. And it surprised me when I woke up one day in 2013 (after decades working in the private sector) as the co-head of a non-profit where I’d get to work on design to ensure voter intent every day.

Over my years working in election design, I designed and led research ranging from understanding poll workers’ attitudes about security in elections and their jobs in polling places, to mapping the gap between how local election officials think and the questions voters’ have. I led research on what became the Anywhere Ballot, usability of county and state election websites, how voters find and use information about elections, and where language access and acculturation is important for people with low English and low civics proficiency. I was the originator and the managing editor of the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent.

I got to work with smart, mission-driven people who were excited about solving problems through design and who are curious about other human beings and their experiences. And I met and worked with thousands of election administrators who are some of the hardest-working and under-appreciated people in government. Together, over a long time, we incrementally made elections better.

I expect to continue talking about and working on understanding the journey of U.S. voters until I can’t talk anymore. Right now, I’m excited about moving to an adjacent space, one that I’ve been thinking about for a while: user-centered policy design.

Of course CCD goes on, with Whitney at the helm along with a great team working on helping jurisdictions implement better vote-by-mail, modernizing voter registration, and getting ready for new language access determinations. And, of course voting systems standards work!

For more information about the Center for Civic Design, contact You can reach me at,, or on Twitter @danachis.