I recently had the privilege of attending the Election Assistance Commission’s Summit meeting in Washington, D.C. There were three statements made that I want to focus on:
1. We’ve been told “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but in elections there is no small stuff.
2. The nation’s eyes will not just be on our work, but on the outcomes of our work.
3. Clerks can no longer be election specialists with IT knowledge; we must become IT specialists with election knowledge.
There is no small stuff in elections. Each election has a planning process that begins several months before the first ballot is cast. Clerks have become statisticians and analysts. For each precinct, we track how many are registered, how many vote, do they vote absentee or at the precincts, what time of day do they normally vote, (in a presidential primary) how many vote in each party and how long does the voter need to vote the ballot. These numbers determine how many workers we need, how many ballots we need, how much parking we need, how many booths we need, etc. Our ability to analyze the numbers and statistics impacts greatly how good or bad the experience will be for voters.
What we do and how we do it comes out in the canvass and in a recount. Recent recounts have drawn attention to the processes and procedures that clerks and election inspectors are required to follow. The nation’s eyes are not just on Election Day results, but also on the security of the ballots and the integrity of the process. Training of the Clerks and of the Election Inspectors must be thorough, ongoing and mandatory.
Clerks must become fluent in IT language and topics. During the cybersecurity session of the Summit this statement was made, “As good as we are, we just don’t have the resources to keep hackers out.” There was a sense of urgency in the meeting to understand how real the threat is for elections. The statement was also made that the only way to be 100 percent sure that the vote count is accurate is to have a paper ballot. Michigan does.
As clerks we have to get it right and we have to get it right every single time. Protecting the vote and protecting voter information is our responsibility in the real world and in the cyberworld.
Rochester Hills City Clerk