Friday, April 6, 2018

Elections Very Small Agency EAC Tackling Very Big Problem of Election Meddling

One of the Federal Government’s Smallest Agencies is taking on one of the Country’s most Pressing Problems: Foreign Meddling in U.S. Elections.

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which has an Annual Budget of less than $10 Million and about 30 Employees, wants to quickly Distribute the $380 Million provided by the Fiscal 2018 Spending Package for Security Grants to State and Local Election Authorities.

“The EAC is committed to making these funds available as soon as feasibly possible, and we fully expect this money will be deployed in meaningful ways to support the 2018 elections,” EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks said in a Statement.

Congress gave the New Funding in response to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revelations that Russia Targeted Election Systems for possible Interference in 2016. DHS found no evidence that Voting actually was Tampered with, there was some evidence Voter Registration Roll might have been Changed, but it Warned that more Safeguards are needed to Secure Future Elections.

The EAC doesn’t have to decide who will get the New Election Security Grant Money. Appropriators in Congress provided a Funding Formula to Distribute Grants based on Voting-Age Population. State Grants range from $3 Million for the least Populous States to nearly $35 million for California, according to the EAC.

The Top Priority for spending the Money is Upgrading State and Local Voting Systems to ensure they create a Paper Trail for All Votes as a Backup against Computer Hacking. This involves Replacing Current Voting Equipment, which only Records a Voter’s Intent Electronically, with Equipment that provides a Voter-Verified Paper Record of each Vote.

Question: How will the EAC handle those State's Legislature that Vote to not Upgrade their Voting Equipment like:

Georgia: Senate Bill 403, which would have moved the State to a Paper-Ballot system Died at Midnight on March 30th at the end of the Legislative Session. The House had Approved an Amended Version of the Bill earlier in the day.

The Grants could provide a Start toward Replacing Paperless Voting Systems in 14 States that now have them, but the Money is not nearly enough to do the whole job, according to a Recent Analysis by Nonprofits Brennan Center for Justice and Verified Voting.

In addition to Creating Paper Trails, the new Grants can be used by State and Local Officials to Create a Post-Election Audit System to Verify the Accuracy of the Final Vote Tally. Other Priorities include hardening Election Computer systems against Cyber Vulnerabilities and providing Cybersecurity Training for Election Officials.

In an unusual move, the EAC said it would give Grant Funds to States even before they Return Applications saying exactly what they will do with them. Grant Award Notification Letters are set to go out to States this Month.

The Letters will allow States to incur Costs, with Prior EAC Approval, against the forthcoming Grant Awards, effective the Date of the Notification Letter, the EAC said. States have will have Five Years to formally Request their Funds and get the Money in their Accounts, after which Time any Funds remaining at EAC will Automatically be Returned to the U.S. Treasury.

The EAC said States will be asked to Submit a Two-to-Three-page Overview of Activities to be supported with the Funds and a Line-Item Budget within 90 days of Receiving Notice of Grant awards.

More Detailed Guidance on Development of the Plans and Budgets will be forthcoming, EAC said. The Agency noted that Grant Awards will be Issued and Funds Available for Drawdown prior to Receipt of each State’s Overview in order to Expedite and Support needed Expenditures for the upcoming Midterm Elections.

States are required to Match 5% of Federal Funds Awarded within Two Years of Receiving Federal Funds, the EAC said.

New York was just notified they are eligible for $5 Million. They already have $1 Million set aside, so meets the Match Requirement. For the Audit Requirement they will use the Clear Ballot system. New York was joining a Conference Call today for their Instructions on how to use, as yet not available, the Online Grant Request system.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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