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Ben Hovland and Christy McCormick

EAC Providing Valuable Support for Election Officials, Voters Ahead of 2020 Elections

Jul 17, 2019

By Chairwoman Christy McCormick and Vice-Chair Ben Hovland

In recent weeks, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Commissioners and staff have packed their bags and crisscrossed the nation to participate in conferences hosted by state and local election officials, as well as national gatherings of the National Association of Secretaries of State, the National Association of State Election Directors, the National Association of Counties and the International Association of Government Officials. The EAC’s four Commissioners have already visited 25 states in the first half of this year, conducting site visits at election offices, meeting with voters and election officials, participating in and conducting trainings, and presenting at conferences.

Each visit has affirmed two things: election officials are hard at work preparing for the 2020 Presidential Election and the EAC remains a vital partner in this effort.  As detailed in the EAC’s “Election Administrator Competencies” Wheel, election officials have an expansive range of responsibilities  they must often tackle with few resources and no room for error. The EAC strives to support this work with original resources, opportunities to share best practices among those working on elections, and the administration of federal funds that can ease the financial burdens associated with carrying out secure, efficient, and accurate elections.

2019 kicked off with the restoration of a quorum of EAC Commissioners, giving our agency a much-welcomed boost of expertise and momentum as we prepare for next year’s election and ways we can help America vote. As the nation’s only federal agency focused exclusively on election administration, the EAC is at its best when our work is shaped by feedback from election officials and the voters they serve. We seek this input during our travels, and, in return, we often provide an update about what’s new at the EAC.

We thought it would be beneficial to share some of this information in a blog to give our readers a snapshot of some of our recent activities.

Since the beginning of the year, the EAC has supported election officials as they prepare for the 2020 Presidential Election by:

  • Advancing the next generation of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines: Once the EAC’s quorum was restored and the government shutdown came to an end, our first act was to unanimously vote to publish the proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 in the Federal Register for a 90-day public comment period. The EAC then hosted three public hearings throughout the country to gather feedback on the proposed Principles and Guidelines. Now that the public comment period has concluded, the comments and feedback on the proposed document have been compiled and will soon be presented to the Commissioners for discussion and consideration.

As part of our next steps, the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) has scheduled a series of public meetings via WebEx to discuss different requirements associated with the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines:

  • August 5, 2019, 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET – Usability/Accessibility Requirements

  • August 16, 2019, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ET – High Quality Design, High Quality Implementation, Transparency, Interoperability Requirements

  • September 5 , 2019, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. ET – Cybersecurity Requirements

A two-day in-person TGDC meeting is scheduled for Sept. 19-20, 2019 at the EAC’s Silver Spring headquarters. 

  • Conducting Information Technology trainings to ensure election systems remain resilient: The EAC offers an IT Management Training aimed at helping election officials manage the increasingly complex technical demands of planning, directing and controlling contemporary elections. Each training is customized to reflect state-specific voting and election systems and provided at no cost to states. In the past three years, the EAC has provided its IT Management Training to more than 1,000 election officials across 14 states, including three trainings this year.

  • Testing and certifying voting systems: Since its 2002 establishment under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC’s Testing and Certification Program has served a crucial role in maintaining the reliability and security of the nation’s voting systems. Thus far in 2019, five voting systems have been certified and an additional five are currently in testing.  

  • Using election data to improve election administration: Late last month during the EAC’s Election Data Summit, the Commission released its 2018 Election and Voting Administration Survey (EAVS), the nation’s most comprehensive source of state- and local jurisdiction-level data about election administration in the United States. The EAVS plays an important role in helping election officials, policy makers and other election stakeholders identify trends, anticipate and respond to voter needs, and invest resources to improve election administration and the voter experience. In the coming months, our research team will use EAVS data to produce a series of new resources that election administrators can use as they prepare for 2020.

  • Supporting states as they invest vital new HAVA funds: In April, the EAC released its FY18 Grant Expenditure Report. In addition to detailing how states and territories had spent $3,628,946,231 in federal funds made available through HAVA, the report examined how states and territories were able to begin spending an additional $380 million in 2018 HAVA Funds within just the first six months of funds being made available to them. The report also provided summaries from each of the 55 states and territories eligible to receive HAVA Funds of initiatives made possible as a result of these federal grants.

While distribution of the new HAVA Funds has concluded, the administration role of our Grants team continues. They continue to share ideas and best practices from state-to-state and provide written feedback on every plan submitted. Our Grants team also provides technical assistance to support effective state administration of funds, including how to make sub-grants, how to track employee time, rules for equipment acquisition, and other elements of effective management of federal funds. 

The EAC also continues to update media, Congress and members of the public about the status of state funding. 

  • Convening the EAC’s Advisory Boards: The EAC’s advisory boards are essential to the Commission’s mission. They serve as indispensable advisors as the EAC designs and implements programs to assist election officials and voters throughout the entire election process. In April, the EAC Standards Board met in Memphis, Tennessee and the EAC Board of Advisors convened in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the meetings, members received an intelligence briefing from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, and they heard presentations from the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, and many others.

  • Launching a new initiative on Disaster Preparedness & Recovery: Election stabilization and recovery in the aftermath of hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters has unfortunately become a timely topic for election officials across the country.

In March 2019, the EAC formed a Disaster Preparedness & Recovery Working Group  comprised of election officials with hands-on experience successfully administering elections following natural or man-made disasters. The Working Group met for its initial meeting on April 10, 2019 prior to the EAC Standards Board meeting. During their annual meetings, the EAC Standards Board and Board of Advisors also established committees to explore lessons learned and best practices gleaned from disaster preparedness and recovery within the election community. 

The EAC will continue to work with each of these entities to open lines of communication between other federal agencies and election officials; create resources that cull the knowledge of election officials who have had to rebuild their systems after severe natural and man-made disasters; and, establish additional avenues of support to expedite recovery when a disaster occurs.

  • Partnering to secure elections and improve lines of communication: One-third of the EAC, including Commissioners and staff, participated in the DHS-led Tabletop the Vote last month, and the Commission continues to participate in other security-related activities. For example, the EAC plays a leading role as a member of the Critical Infrastructure Sector’s Government Coordinating Counsel’s Executive Board. Additionally, in a development that improves timely access to actionable intelligence, all Commissioners, as well as the EAC’s Executive Director, Chief Information Officer and Director of Testing and Certification, have been granted interim security clearances in 2019.  

  • Serving as a resource for Congress: This spring, the EAC’s Commissioners testified before Congress to detail the work of the EAC and shed light on the needs of election administrators and voters across the nation. In addition to oversight hearings held by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Administration Committee, Chairwoman McCormick addressed election security efforts during her testimony before the National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The EAC has also responded to a host of inquiries from Congress about a variety of topics and participated in closed-door briefings for Congressional staff. 

  • Briefing OSCE Ahead of 2020: Commissioner Hovland and Executive Director Brian Newby briefed members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe ahead of its 2020 mission to observe U.S. elections. The EAC provided an overview of election security and a snapshot of other election administration issues and will continue to work with the OSCE as it prepares for the U.S. Presidential Election.

  • Supporting national efforts to increase voter registration and participation in elections: The EAC continues to support national efforts to support voter registration, such as National Voter Registration Day and National Disability Voter Registration Week’s REV UP campaign. These important coordinated efforts encourage increased engagement in our nation’s elections and focus on the importance of making elections accessible to all Americans.

  • Ensuring voting accessibility remains top-of-mind for election stakeholders: While much of the discussion around election administration since the 2016 elections has focused on security, and for good reason, any secure solution cannot come at the expense of limiting accessibility. As stewards of HAVA, the EAC is committed to fulfilling its Congressional mandate to serve as national leaders in assisting the ever-growing population of voters with disabilities and the thousands of election officials who serve them.

In 2019 alone, the EAC has provided thousands of voting rights cards to voters with disabilities. EAC Commissioners have participated in discussions focused on security and accessibility, such as “Accessibility and Security of Ballot Marking Systems” at the National Federation of the Blind. Commissioners have also participated in forums to gather feedback from voters with disabilities, such as the 2019 Annual Conference on Independent Living, which we will attend this weekend.

  • Highlighting best practices in election administration: The EAC announced the winners of the third annual Clearinghouse Awards in February of this year. Born of the EAC’s mandate to serve as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration, the annual Clearinghouse Awards, better known as the “Clearies,” recognize best practices in election administration and highlight exemplary models which can serve as examples to other officials and jurisdictions.

With categories in election innovation, voting accessibility and the recruitment, training and retention of election workers, the “Clearie” Awards give the EAC an opportunity to recognize the vital contributions of election officials on a national stage and highlight best practices within the field of election administration.

The EAC will open the submission period for the fourth annual Clearie awards in early fall and we urge all jurisdictions to submit their best ideas and innovations so that we can share them nationwide.

  • Improving our website navigation: Ahead of the Election Data Summit, the EAC launched a new homepage designed to help our users more easily find the information they need. Users can now self-select who they are and the type of information they’re looking for before being directed to information customized to their needs.

It’s been a busy 2019 so far, and the pace will only pick-up as next year’s Presidential Election approaches. We have a lot of exciting new resources and events planned for the coming months, so we encourage you to reach out to the EAC for election-related information, resources, and support. We also hope you’ll never hesitate to contact us with your ideas and feedback. Please feel free to contact us via https://www.eac.gov/contact/

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