The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is an independent commission that was created by the 2002 Help America Vote Act. It helps elections officials administer and promote citizen participation in the voting process. The group held its annual summit this week in Washington to discuss preparations for the fall elections. Vermont’s Secretary of State delivered the welcoming comments to the group.
The Election Assistance Commission, or EAC, held several panels including a discussion on anticipated turnout, access to the polls and potential Election Day challenges. EAC Chair Christy McCormick opened the summit noting that votes for 2020 are imminent or already occurring. “The Iowa caucuses and new Hampshire primary are just a few short weeks away with dozens of states’ primaries and caucuses not far behind. Ballots for military and overseas voters have already been sent for the New Hampshire primary. Which that the first votes in the 2020 elections have already been cast.”
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos is a past president of the National Association of Secretaries of State where his focus was election security. The Democrat is also a member of the EAC’s Board of Advisors and its Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council. He provided an overview of efforts in Vermont and at the national level to assure secure ballots. “Every time I hear someone say ‘as we prepare for the 2020 elections’ I’d like to remind you all, as Chairwoman McCormick did, they’re already here. At least one state has already sent out its UOCAVA (Uniformed Overseas Citizens’ Absentee Voting Act) ballots. Vermont’s actually start going out this Friday. In Vermont we also have early voting, no excuse absentee voting that matches the UOCAVA deadline of 45 days. So folks the election really is already here.”
Condos noted that the primary focus of most elections officials is security. In 2013 he did a risk and vulnerability assessment in Vermont and now works on polling cybersecurity every day. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done in Vermont. We have state mandated paper ballots. We have a state mandated post-election audit. We do a daily backup of our voter registration database. We have Election Day registration. Our tabulators are not connected to the internet in any way. We have two factor authentication for access to our election management system. We have firewalls in front of every one of our doors. We do weekly DHS cyber-scans and have been since 2016. And we also do cyber-training for our local town clerks who administer our elections in Vermont.”
Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Election Threats Executive Shelby Pierson reported that the federal intelligence community is working with state and local elections officials to assure voter confidence. “Russia, China and Iran all have capabilities and all have interests in the opportunity presented to them in 2020. We are committed to sharing that information as we can with all relevant stakeholders as we go forward into 2020. It’s not just reacting to threats. It’s developing accesses and inroads that allow us to anticipate the threats to enable our decision-makers. That’s a hard task.”