The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) last week unveiled new resources to support local elections officials as they work to ensure a safe and secure general election amidst a public health crisis.
The EAC’s August update includes election-related Coronavirus resources, election security preparedness, and best uses for Help American Vote Act (HAVA) emergency funds made available under the CARES Act.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Larry Hogan approved a State Board of Elections (SBE) plan to designate each of Maryland’s 282 high schools as vote centers — places where any county resident can vote, regardless of their precinct — for the November 3 election.
Each registered voter who has not already requested a mail-in ballot will be mailed a mail-in ballot application. In the meantime, voters who know they want to vote-by-mail may request a mail-in ballot via SBE.
Across the United States, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the landscape of the 2020 election cycle. The nation’s counties traditionally administer and fund elections at the local level, overseeing more than 109,000 polling places and coordinating more than 694,000 poll workers every two years.
Accoding to the National Association of Counties (NACo):
Along with administering elections, county officials work tirelessly to preserve the integrity and security of America’s elections. Local governments protect against hacks to voter rolls to alter data and attempts to remove election information from county websites.
Counties hire and train poll workers to ensure they are well equipped to assist voters and protect against voter fraud or other security risks. Additionally, election officials are prepared for a wide range of “hard security” challenges at polling locations, including mitigating natural disasters, following protocols for an active shooter or fire and other emergencies. Voter fraud in America is essentially non-existent due in large part to the efforts and actions taken by county election officials every single day.
To support counties and local elections officials across the country, NACo has worked tirelessly with the EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission charged with developing guidance to help jurisdictions meet requirements established under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.
NACo supports continued funding for the EAC and appreciates the role the EAC plays in coordinating collaborative efforts among local, state and federal government officials in addressing issues from the accessibility of polling places to the cybersecurity of voting equipment and voter registration databases.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, SBE last week voted unanimously to request additional state funding to pay for mail-in ballot applications. The additional funding — which must be approved by the Department of Budget and Management — would alleviate a significant unfunded mandate on county governments.
While state statute mandates that counties pay half of the postage costs for mail-in ballots, Governor Hogan’s directive for SBE to send all registered voters mail-in ballot applications — rather than mail-in ballots — will result in unforeseen and substantial costs for local boards of elections, whose operations are supported by county funding.
SBE estimates that it will cost up to $5.6 million to prepare and mail ballot applications, with the return postage alone costing up to $3 million. Without state resources to offset these large costs, the order represents a significant unfunded mandate on local governments.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.