In the Field: On the Hill for the Election Readiness Summit
In the world of elections, the 2020 presidential is basically a month away. And as we inch ever closer to this hallmark event, the eyes of the nation are focused on the election industry. To improve awareness of how elections operate, and how the industry is preparing for 2020, the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) recently organized an educational summit for members of Congress; also open to the public. The event featured educational panels of election thought leaders and an open-house style vendor faire.
For me, the best part was definitely being able to sit in on the sessions and capture knowledge from the speakers and audience alike. I observed a few key themes, and these seem to be reverberating throughout the industry, no matter the event, jurisdiction, or level of government. They were:
Risk Limit Auditing (RLA)
RLA is probably THE hottest topic, mentioned in almost every session. While a popular topic for conversation, there does seem to be some hesitancy about implementation. The primary reason seems to be that there is still lack of clarity about how they work.
Continuity of Funding
I took particular interest in the discussions around “no finish line”. Not only in DC, but at conferences and in jurisdictions around the country, I hear election officials emphasizing their need for access to consistent and predictable funding. While the recent release of HAVA funds is massively beneficial, it is almost impossible to budget for training, equipment replacement, system upgrades, etc. if the funding only happens intermittently.
Speaking of training, it was impressive to hear that every single jurisdiction represented, whether a county or state, stressed that they would be assigning a significant chunk of their budget to training. Whether it be for full-time staff or poll workers, the speakers prioritized the benefits of investing in human capital.
I think it was exciting to see that counties were represented on all of the panels. Until recently, there didn’t seem to be much knowledge from the general public that Local Election Authorities are THE driving force behind election operations. And, there was one very funny moment when an audience member directed a question to EAC Chairman Tom Hicks on whether the EAC would be prohibiting the states from continuing with electronic ballot delivery. Tom got a good chuckle from the audience when he deadpanned the response, “Uhhh, ma’am, states run elections, not the federal government.” Great showing of respect for what states and counties do, Mr. Chairman!
As a vendor, it was especially meaningful to be invited to our nation’s capital to share how we are striving to preserve the integrity of democracy by offering a more secure, usable Election Management and Voter Registration System. I had a blast visiting with Congressional aides, representatives of organizations like Women’s League of Voters, and EAC staff members. There were so many bright questions, and many aha moments when I shared how a VR/EMS may be the single most vulnerable point in the election technology ecosystem. I hope that we can continue to engage in these open, transparent conversations for years to come!