Election Commission Plans for More Secure Votes and Elections

February 17, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Cobb County election staff start the recount of the presidential ballots Friday at the Jim Miller Park Event Center in Marietta on November 13, 2020. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

WASHINGTON — A federal election official described the 2020 vote as one of the most difficult in American history during a congressional hearing Monday.

The COVID-19 pandemic, reports of attempted foreign cyberattacks and allegations of fraud by President Donald Trump and his supporters played havoc with officials’ effort to run a fair and orderly election, according to lawmakers at the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government hearing.

“It was an extremely stressful year and there is a level of burnout among election officials,” said Benjamin Hovland, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “The job has never been harder.”

The subcommittee called the hearing to review the performance of the Election Assistance Commission and to determine what needs to be done to prevent problems during future elections.

The Election Assistance Commission is a government agency that acts as an information clearinghouse on election administration. It administers federal grants to states, adopts guidelines and certifies voting equipment. It also maintains a national mail voter registration form.

The Commission is operating with a $15.5 million budget this year. Hovland said the kinds of challenges demonstrated by the last federal election show it needs to be a $100 million a year agency.

Despite the obstacles, “This was the best-administered election I have seen in my career,” Hovland told the subcommittee.

Some lawmakers said they were concerned that Russians and other foreign adversaries might interfere with U.S. elections.

“Our enemies will not be taking a break so neither should we,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., who chairs the subcommittee on financial services and general government.

Foreign influence over U.S. elections arose initially during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the Russian government tried to sway the vote in favor of Trump while at the same time increasing political discord in the United States. A subsequent investigation showed the operation was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Code named Project Lakhta, it included creating thousands of social media accounts that purported to come from Americans. They reached millions of social media users with messages that supported extremist groups and supported Trump but denounced his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“For years now our right to vote has been threatened by foreign adversaries,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

She suggested that Congress give the Election Assistance Commission the resources it needs to stop foreign interference.

Doubts about the integrity of the election continued in the 2020 cycle. A Quinnipiac University poll published last month showed that 37% of voters believe there was widespread voter fraud in the election.

The lawmakers also wanted to know what could be done to better inform voters about their options, such as for voter registration and mail-in votes.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., said the Election Assistance Commission’s efforts to inform voters about upcoming elections can overlook underserved communities. The efforts sometimes included pre-recorded phone calls.

“These are robocalls going into homes,” she said. Often they are ignored or ineffective, Lawrence said.

Hovland said the Election Assistance Commission is trying to ramp up its outreach to voters but lacks the resources to reach everyone. He agreed that voters sometimes pass up their own opportunities.

“A lot of people aren’t participating because they’re not familiar with the process,” he said.

He suggested wider use of the internet to reach voters. He also wants to recruit more qualified poll workers with an increased budget from Congress.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., recommended that federal aid for state elections be carefully targeted “to the area of greatest need.”

Elections

'Hillbilly' to Capitol Hill? Author Eyes Senate Bid in Ohio
Political News
'Hillbilly' to Capitol Hill? Author Eyes Senate Bid in Ohio

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (AP) — Rodney Muterspaw figures J.D. Vance has already shown he's got what it takes to be a U.S. senator.  Vance, the "Hillbilly Elegy" author and a fellow Middletown native, broke out of poverty and family chaos and never forgot his Appalachian roots on... Read More

FEC Says Website Won’t Violate Law By Posting Lawmakers’ Statements on Faith
Elections
FEC Says Website Won’t Violate Law By Posting Lawmakers’ Statements on Faith
April 11, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Federal Election Commission held this week that Pray.com, a free mobile application and website, won’t violate federal election laws if it invites members of Congress to produce five-minute statements on matters of faith. Pray.com, a for-profit corporation, asked for the advisory opinion from... Read More

St. Louis Elects First Black Female Mayor
Cities
St. Louis Elects First Black Female Mayor
April 8, 2021
by Dan McCue

St. LOUIS - Tishaura Jones, running on a promise to reform and revitalize her city, has become the first Black woman elected mayor of St. Louis. As previously reported by The Well News, this year’s mayoral race featured a new, nonpartisan voting system that was approved... Read More

Companies Unite to Join Voting Rights Battle
In The States
Companies Unite to Join Voting Rights Battle

WASHINGTON - Nearly 200 companies have come out against Republican voting legislation critics say is simply a blatant attempt to disenfranchise millions of Black and minority voters. The chief executives of Dow, Levi’s Survey Monkey, PayPal and Uber were among the more than 170 executives who... Read More

Major League Baseball Pulls All-Star Game From Georgia
In The States
Major League Baseball Pulls All-Star Game From Georgia
April 2, 2021
by TWN Staff

Major League Baseball said Friday it would move its annual All-Star Game out of Georgia, citing the state government’s recent decision to put in place more restrictive measures on who is able to vote in coming elections. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all... Read More

Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
Political News
Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
March 31, 2021
by Dan McCue

Democrat Rita Hart threw in the towel Wednesday afternoon, giving up her bid to represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and effectively ending the 2020 election cycle. Hart, who had been challenging the outcome of the race before the Committee on House Administration, said in a brief... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top