Merrill, 16 other secretaries of state support ‘robust funding of Election Assistance Commission’

Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill (2018 Cullman Tribune file photo)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bipartisan group of 17 secretaries of state, led by Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill, on Thursday sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Minority Leader of the House Kevin McCarthy to issue its support for “adequately funding the Election Assistance Commission during fiscal year 2021.”

The text of the letter is below:

Thank you for your generous financial support during the 2020 Federal Election Cycle. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds used to assist in the administration of the election ensured a safe and sanitary election was observed on November 3.

As we move forward, it is of utmost importance that election officials are equipped with the necessary resources to continue providing open, fair and secure elections, while also maintaining public confidence in the process.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), provides support, guidance and assistance to state and local election officials for voter registration, voter participation, election equipment certification, cyber security, voter file maintenance and much more. Between 2010 and 2019, the EAC’s budget was cut significantly by almost 50%, severely limiting their ability to assist states and localities with the administration of the election.

While we are most appreciative of the funds appropriated to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a great deal of work to be accomplished to address the issues witnessed during this election cycle.

Therefore, as the chief election officials of our respective states, we encourage robust funds be allocated to the EAC for fiscal year 2021 for various initiatives including, but not limited to:

  1. Conducting a comprehensive post-election review with a special focus on procedures implemented due to COVID-19;
  2. Improving the security and auditing of election systems;
  3. Implementing a robust training program available to all election officials nationwide;
  4. Assembling a team of experts to research and establish non-voting technology best practices and resources to better secure voter registration systems and other election related systems that are not a part of the current testing and certification program;
  5. Implementing procedures and a process to certify electronic poll books;
  6. Establishing a team dedicated to recommending improvements to the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines and maintaining modern and agile certification requirements;
  7. Recruiting election personnel to assist with the clearinghouse function of the EAC to disseminate election administration information to election officials and educate the public;
  8. Developing web tools for voters and election officials to provide information such as deadlines, registration, legislation, voter options, education, etc.;
  9. Implementing a voter helpdesk team to assist voters;
  10. Increasing grant related resources to assist states with technical guidance and oversight of grant funds, including CARES Act and other HAVA grants; and
  11. Establishing a new Federal Advisory Committee Act Board consisting of local election officials who will serve to increase the EAC’s ability to communicate with and reach local officials with relevant information related to the elections process.

We are committed to protecting the integrity and credibility of the electoral process, and with your assistance, the EAC will be able to continue to support election officials in this pursuit.

Asked by The Tribune to explain to what specific issues Merrill was referring when he wrote, “the issues witnessed during this election cycle,” Merrill’s office responded:

“No irregularities were observed in Alabama on November 3. However, alleged instances of voter fraud, inconsistent vote counting (whether by machine or away from public view), varying methods of signature verification, and more have circulated through the media and have led to various lawsuits. While we (in Alabama) cannot comment on the merit of any lawsuit or the scope of any of these potential irregularities, election officials are committed to advancing efforts to promote a more secure and efficient elections process. Elections should be open, fair, and transparent. Anything less is a disservice to our democracy and the American people.”

According to Merrill’s office, in addition to Merrill, R-Alabama, the letter was signed by Kevin Meyer, R-Alaska; Katie Hobbs, D-Arizona; John Thurston, R-Arkansas; Paul Pate, R-Iowa; Scott Schwab, R-Kansas; Kyle Ardoin, R-Louisiana; Jocelyn Benson, D-Michigan; Steve Simon, D-Minnesota; Maggie Toulouse Oliver, D-New Mexico; Frank LaRose, R-Ohio; Shemia Fagan, D-Oregon; Nellie Gorbea, D-Rhode Island; Steve Barnett, R-South Dakota; Jim Condos, D-Vermont; Mac Warner, R-West Virginia; and Ed Buchanan, R-Wyoming.