February 24, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Commissioner Donald Palmer began his year-long term as Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Chairman Palmer will continue to serve alongside newly-elected EAC Vice Chairman Thomas Hicks, and EAC Commissioners Christy McCormick and Ben Hovland.
“Since joining the EAC, I have had the honor of visiting with state and local election officials from across the country to learn more about the work they are doing to conduct secure, accurate, and transparent elections. This experience gives me great confidence in the dedicated men and women who run our elections,” said Chairman Donald Palmer. “As I take on the role of Chairman, I look forward to working with the other Commissioners to ensure the EAC prioritizes a positive voter experience, build trust in the nation’s voting systems, and better serve election officials by offering resources that increase professional training in election administration across the country.”
Chairman Palmer identified the following areas he would like to build on as priorities for the agency in the coming year, including:
- Building a voluntary election system testing program for non-voting technology to increase the security of election systems.
- Increasing EAC’s initiatives regarding accessibility for voters with disabilities. This includes increased resources and staff dedicated to accessibility.
- Developing additional enhanced training opportunities for election officials and workers. This includes cybersecurity training and other election administration competencies.
Chairman Palmer is replacing Commissioner Ben Hovland as Chair of the EAC Commissioners.
"It was an honor to serve as Chairman of the EAC over the past year. A few weeks after I started my term, we realized 2020 was not going to be just a normal presidential election year. I am very proud of all that we were able to accomplish, particularly with the added challenges presented by the pandemic. Over the last year, the EAC supported the administration of $425 million in 2020 HAVA security grants as well as $400 million in CARES Act grants. The EAC Commissioners unanimously approved the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0, paving the way for next generation of voting systems across the country. We also hosted many virtual events, instituted National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, and secured increased funding for agency operations," said previous Chairman, Commissioner Ben Hovland. "2020 was one of the most challenging election years in recent history. I look forward to continuing to work alongside my fellow commissioners and the EAC staff as we work to improve election administration for the coming year and beyond."
About Chairman Palmer
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 highlight 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 serves as the Designated Federal Officer for the Standards Board.
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.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. The EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.
Contact: Kristen Muthig