Donald Palmer was nominated by President Donald J. Trump and confirmed by unanimous consent of the United States Senate on January 2, 2019 to serve on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Commissioner Palmer is a former Bipartisan Policy Center Fellow where he advanced the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration to resolve the voting technology crisis, find ways to reduce lines of voters, and improve the voting experience. He provided testimony to state legislatures on election administration and voting reforms and partnered with state election officials and state legislators in support of election modernization across the country.
Palmer is a former Secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections and served as the commonwealth’s Chief Election Official from 2011-2014. During his tenure, he implemented an online voter registration system and joined Virginia as a founding member of ERIC, a non-profit organization with the sole mission of assisting states to improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens. Palmer strengthened the security and accuracy of voting tabulation machines in Virginia with the establishment of a voting system testing certification program. He also served as the Florida’s Director of Elections where he successfully transitioned the state from electronic voting machines to paper based voting tabulation machines prior to the 2008 Presidential Election and expanded the Florida voting system state certification program.
As an election administrator, Palmer has advised the EAC in a number of roles. He has served as a Senior Advisor to the EAC on the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and served on EAC advisory boards, including the Standards Board Executive Board and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, representing the National Association of State Election Directors.
Prior to his work in election administration, he served as a trial attorney with the Voting Section in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he enforced the nation’s voting laws. He litigated a number of cases involving federal voting laws, including the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). He monitored polling places in state and local elections across the county to identify noncompliance with federal voting and disability rights laws. After the passage of HAVA, Palmer worked with state election officials to provide states guidance on implementation of HAVA verification requirements for voter registration systems. Palmer eventually represented the United States in the first enforcement action under HAVA in United States v. Alabama where the federal court ordered the state to implement an interactive statewide voter registration system under a special master.
Palmer is a military veteran, retiring from the U.S. Navy after two decades as an intelligence officer and judge advocate general. He was deployed onboard the USS John F. Kennedy and USS Eisenhower and served overseas in Europe and Southwest Asia. He served as a naval intelligence analyst at the United State Central Command focusing on East Africa. Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Palmer deployed from Europe to the USS Carl Vinson operating in the Arabian Sea. During his naval service, he was awarded the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and Joint Service Commendation Medal. Commissioner Palmer earned his J.D. at the Stetson University College of Law and his master’s degree at George Washington University.