The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) met February 16 and 17 on Pennsylvania Avenue, two blocks from the White House. Ironically, despite irresponsible claims of massive voter fraud and legitimate worries about voter suppression, participants in the NASS Conference and its sister group, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), had a fair amount to feel pretty good about. They could reflect upon an Election Day in November that in a procedural sense went fairly smoothly—not a description often applied to the 2016 election. The chaos and conflict at the polls that was feared by many did not materialize. The incidence of long lines and polling place problems was significantly reduced from 2012, and the gaps between the experiences of voters in white precincts and precincts in communities of color narrowed as well, according to MIT Professor Charles Stewart, based on the Survey on the Performance of American Elections conducted immediately after the elections. Two issues, however, were too fraught with partisan conflict to achieve any consensus on the part of the assembled secretaries of state: Russian hacking and calculated interference in the election, and the president’s claim of massive voter fraud.
On the Russian issue, after the election, in response to the intelligence community’s confirmation of Russian cyber efforts to manipulate our elections, the Department of Homeland Security designated our election system a part of the country’s “critical infrastructure,” which means that it gets the highest attention and defensive control from our national intelligence agencies. The designation was made by President Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, but Trump’s new secretary, John Kelly, recently indicated that he did not plan to reverse the designation. At the meeting of the NASS Elections Committee, Connecticut Secretary of the State and NASS President Denise Merrill proposed a task force to study the issue and work collaboratively with federal agencies to examine the vulnerability of voting systems to hacking. But Republican members, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, redirected the proposal, adding a resolution of strong opposition to the designation.
The biggest elephant in the room was the claim by Trump that three million to five million people voted fraudulently in the election, and then doubling down by saying he is going to name a commission, headed by Vice President Pence, to examine voter fraud. The media, Democrats uniformly, many Republicans, and every study that has been made of this issue have rejected this claim emphatically. Nevertheless, he persists.
Full Article: Elections: State Progress, Federal Train Wreck.