U.S. Elections and COVID-19

U.S. Elections and COVID-19

Nick Oxford/Reuters
from State and Local Conference Calls and Webinars

More on:

Coronavirus

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Elections and Voting

United States

Speakers

Jennifer Morrell

Consultant, Election Validation Project, Democracy Fund

Meagan Wolfe

Administrator, Wisconsin Elections Commission

Presider

Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

FASKIANOS: Good afternoon and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations State and Local Officials Conference Call Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. We are delighted to have participants from all fifty states joining us for today’s discussion, which is on the record. As you know, CFR is an independent and nonpartisan organization and think tank focusing on U.S. foreign policy. Through our State and Local Officials Initiative we serve as a resource on international issues affecting the priorities and agendas of state and local governments by providing analysis on a wide range of policy topics. We also produce Foreign Affairs magazine.

We recognize that many of you are on the frontlines of responding to COVID-19 in your communities. We thank you for your service and for taking the time to be with us today. We are pleased to have Jennifer Morrell and Meagan Wolfe with us. We shared their full bios prior to the call, so I’ll just give you the highlights on their distinguished background. And you’ll hear in the background probably the flyover, a formation over New York and Washington to honor the first responders. So forgive that background nose.

We are pleased to have Jennifer Morrell. She’s a nationally recognized election audit expert. She serves a consultant at Democracy Fund, leading the election validation project. Ms. Morrell is also a partner at Elections Group and serves as an expert advisor for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. She previously held election official roles for nine years in Utah and Colorado.

Meagan Wolfe is administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the chief election official in the state. She was first appointed by the bipartisan Elections Commission in March 2018 and was later confirmed unanimously by the State Senate. She serves on the board of the Federal National Election Organization, where she advocates for the needs of Wisconsin’s local election officials and voters.

So welcome to you both, Jennifer and Meagan. Thank you very much for being with us. Jennifer, let’s begin with you to talk about—give us an overview of what needs to be done to ensure successful elections at the local, state, and national level while we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

MORRELL: Great. Well, thank you, Irina. It really is an honor to be here today, to be here with your members. I love the vast array of staff and officials it looks like we have on the call. And it’s great to see so many town clerks and mayors. You know, I started in elections as a city clerk, and I loved that. I wear a lot of hats, more than just election administrator. But at that level, you’re so tied into what is happening in the community. And I think the first thing when we think about safeguarding our elections in this COVID environment, and when we start to think about solutions, we really need to make sure that those local officials that directly interface with the public have a seat at that table.

As I moved on to direct elections in larger jurisdictions, I got to spend a fair amount of time working on legislation—hundreds of hours reviewing draft language and technical notes. So it’s exciting to see we’ve got some legislative staff dialed in. You all have a tough job. You get to do all the research and writing but you get none of the glory. And so when we come up—we will come up with some one-time solutions, I think, to deal with the challenges in November, but ultimately we need to be thinking forward and we need to be thinking about how we can craft better policy around election administration, really taking the politics out and focusing on those best practices and policy that are going to protect us from this type of crisis in the future. And I think it’s something that’s doable, and the time is ripe when we get to the end of this to change course and focus on that.

I also see we have some first responders and members of the military on the call. I’m an Air Force veteran. And even though it’s been twenty years since I left the service, it really made a lasting impression on me. So much of what has helped me run successful elections, and now in my role helping election officials, really came from the things I learned while serving in the Air Force. And I think if there was ever a time that we—and I say “we” meaning the nation and those running elections—needed a set of technical orders and checklists to ensure precision and uniformity, that time is now.

So what else do we need to do to face our elections? Well, you know, we need to decrease that election day footprint. I think everybody’s aware of that. And that means we need to think about ways to quickly implement best practices around expanding voting by mail, but still thinking about how do we offer a safe option for in-person voting? Because we’re going to need both. And in spite of all these drastic changes and the chaos that may or may not come with them, I think we need to conduct our elections in such a way that we can validate our work at every step. I would tell election officials right now: Assume that the legitimacy of your election might be called into question. I mean, plan for that. Think about how do we increase trust and validate the work you’re doing?

I’m just going to go over a couple of key things that I think answer that question. And the top of my list is really communication. And that’s where I think everyone that’s dialed into this call plays a role and can help. The threat of mis- and disinformation has not gone away. In fact, it’s probably more of a vulnerability now than it was at the beginning of the year. When we think about drastically changing the way elections are conducted, it really is the perfect opportunity for misinformation. Even without national state adversaries, domestic troublemakers, or just citizens with wrong information can affect the trust in an organization if there’s a vacuum—an information vacuum. So how can we work with community leaders and other stakeholders to help identify trusted sources of information and really drive our voters and our community there to combat that?

I think the next thing as we think about expanding voting by mail, you know, obviously I has a lot of experience with that, both in my time in Utah and then significantly in my time serving in election administration in Colorado. Voter registration lists and good list maintenance are going to be critical. And, you know, states that do that primarily as their form of voting usually focus on that day-in and day-out. For other states, that might be a once a year sort of thing. So thinking about how do we quickly make sure that the integrity of those lists are solid, that those addresses are current are up to date and those signatures on file are good and valid?

And then just thinking about the vote by mail experience, and working with experienced vendors to get ballots out, and thinking about creating an inbound ballot process. This is where it really helps to have a technical mindset and bringing people into your organization to assist with that, that have done any sort of lean process improvement sort of things can be really helpful. Thinking about how to break down each of those tasks and designate a specific space for those tasks I found is absolutely critical. It’s the way that you can account for, and track, and do quality control on each step of the process, when you’re processing ballots inbound.

One thing that I think is important to think about is the first time I did an all-mail election, or a significant mail election, the volume of paper coming into my office was something that just took us all by surprise. It’s one thing to plan it on paper; it’s another thing to actually see that volume of ballots. And so how those processes are set up will be critical. And then some other things that I think are important to note is just thinking about transparency around all of this.

So thinking about how we allocate resources, how many polling locations are we going to have, and where will they be located? And if we institute ballot drop boxes, where will those be set up? And how can we involve stakeholders and other members of the community to help provide input on that? Those decisions should just not fall entirely on the local election official, especially in the environment that they’re working in. These are decisions that are difficult to make in the best of times. These are not the best of times. (Laughs.) And so having that community input not only provides transparency but probably will help in those decisions around resource allocation.

And then kind of finally, we can’t take our eye off the ball of cybersecurity. We sent a lot of time post 2016 focused on that. And it’s still just as important. I know, you know, right now everybody’s sort of buzzing about COVID and how to keep our voters, and our poll workers, and our staff healthy and safe. But we need to still maintain—keep our eye on the ball when it comes to all the cyber hygiene and contingency planning, and things like that. And then just finally, as I mentioned, thinking about ways to sort of audit our elections so that we can validate the outcomes.

You know, all of these things take time and money. And those are two things that election officials don’t have right now. I know Meagan will talk about that. And so we get this done by really focusing on collaboration. We think about how do we bring enough people and resources to the table to provide the tools, the templates, the information, the guidelines to really expedite this implementation process? One bright spot is that usually times of disruption bring about giant strides in innovation. And I think everybody has realized that we really need to invest in the people and the technology around election administration. And we’ll get through this in November, and then we’re going to figure out how to modernize this system.

FASKIANOS: Jennifer, thanks very much. Meagan, let’s turn to you now to add your insights, and particularly given the recent elections in Wisconsin.

WOLFE: Great. Thank you. And thank you all so much for being on this call today, and for having me. It’s always a real honor to be able to talk to all the public—fellow public servants around the country about some of the challenges that we’re facing and the things that are important to us as we think about new ways to service our communities and make sure that they have access to the important government features that they need to keep our society running. So thank you all for everything you’re doing to adjust during this difficult time.

I wanted to share with you a little bit about the state of Wisconsin and how we run elections, and then some of the information about what we did to respond to the COVID-19 in the middle of our spring primary election this year. So to start off with, in the state of Wisconsin our sort of claim to fame in elections is that we’re the most decentralized election administration system in the country. And what that means is that most other states run elections at the county level. So they may have fifty to a hundred county election departments, election officials that are running elections for that country.

In Wisconsin, we run elections at the municipal level. So that means that we have—each city, town and village in our state has a local election official, and there are 1,850 of them, in addition to seventy-two counties that have a more limited role in elections than they would in other states. So that brings us to a total of 1,922 local election officials. To other states maybe, again, fifty to a hundred. So it’s very different in terms of how we interact with the process, how things end up playing out in each of those jurisdictions.

Another thing that you might not—you may or may not know is that each state runs elections very differently. Our laws are all structured very differently in terms of what we’re able to do. We’re also different in Wisconsin because we have a bipartisan commission that oversees elections at the state level, and then I’m a nonpartisan official—I have to be nonpartisan by law—that’s appointed as a chief election official for our state. In most other states, it’s the secretary of state or another elected official that serves in that capacity. And so we have a few different things, you know, working here in Wisconsin that are very different from other states in terms of how that structure works.

It also means at the state level we are beholden to state and federal laws and court rulings. We do not have any decision-making authority to change state—to change deadlines, to change the procedure that’s outlined in the law. All of those things would require an act of our legislation or an order of a court to be able to change. And you saw a lot of those court rulings that came into place throughout our election cycle in response to COVID-19. And so, again, those are very different things. We also have to make decisions in public meetings. So anything that is made in terms of a decision for Wisconsin elections by our commission is made in a public meeting. And so you know, for a while there it was almost daily we had commission meetings where the public could watch the decision-making process unfold in terms of the types of guidance and support that we were providing to our local election officials.

So, again, you know, there was a lot of conversation happening nationally about sort of Wisconsin and decision that were or were not made. I think an important part of that narrative is understanding that those 1,922 local election officials, and us as the state elections commission, we have no ability to change those parameters of the law. Our job is to take whatever the law gives us, whatever those court rulings are that are handed to us, and to make it work—to find a way to work within those parameters to do whatever we’re tasked with doing.

There really isn’t any leeway to decide if, you know, the election should be moved, or to decide if we should adopt an all vote by mail. Those aren’t things within our discretion. And so we’re always in a solution-oriented mindset. And I give our clerks just an immense amount of credit. So those local election officials in Wisconsin who are making this happen in all 1,850 jurisdictions. They are the heroes of this story because there were so many changes that happened throughout this process.

So when COVID-19 really became a crisis in our country and in our state, our election was already well underway. So we have a spring primary election every April. We have our nonpartisan primary election every February, and then our nonpartisan spring election every April. And in presidential years, that’s paired with our presidential primary as well. And so that election was already well underway when our governor issued the first stay-at-home order on March 12 for our state. Ballots had already been out since the end of February. And so we were working under conditions where the election was already well underway, and now we were in the midst of this crisis.

So the state of Wisconsin, for example, we had only done about 10 percent of our ballots were transacted by mail in previous elections. And even a 10 percent number would have been pretty high for our state. The majority of voting in Wisconsin happened in person on election day at the polls. We’ve always had a strong tradition of election day registration. Over 80 percent of our voter records have been impacted by election day registration at some point. And it’s really a cultural thing here in the state of Wisconsin. We always historically nationally have some of the highest turnout in the country as well. And election day is just a big part of sort of what happens here.

And so this change to people voting by mail came extremely rapidly and was something where our focus typically hadn’t been on that process because, again, less than 10 percent of people historically had used it, whereas in April we rapidly overnight had to transition to over 80 percent of our ballots being transacted by mail. But that also did not mean that election day and polling places weren’t still in play. Again, those are all requirements of the law. The law requires that each of those 1,850 municipalities had to have an election day polling place available to those voters in addition to those that voted by mail.

And so as this crisis evolved—and, again, you know, these weren’t—we do a lot of contingency planning with our local election officials, working with them on planning for disasters and other types of things that would happen, but not this specific scenario. And so we needed to quickly adjust to what the needs were going to be, what the voter behavior was going to be under these new circumstances. And, you know, our role at the state, we don’t run the elections, we don’t trail the poll workers. The municipalities do that. Our role is to make sure that we support them, that we give them the guidance, that we help them overcome some of the challenges that they were facing.

So the first thing that we saw as everything sort of shifted was that our jurisdictions did not have access to supplies and resources they needed to be able to conduct the in-person processes in accordance with CDC and other health guidance. And so we got to work trying to find supplies for them. We found the same shortages at the state level. We could not find sanitizer, wipes, isopropyl wipes for voting equipment, things like that, to purchase at the state level either. And so we had to get creative and start finding some alternate solutions to be able to provide to our jurisdictions so that they could conduct the election in accordance with that guidance.

And so, for example, when it came to sanitizer, typical sanitizer is not available on the market right now. And so we worked with a local craft distillery to produce a high-concentration alcohol solution to all of the jurisdictions, that they could use. We also found that there were shortages in the paper supply chain and jurisdictions were having a really hard time having the envelopes they needed to conduct absentee voting. And so that was another thing where we had to source envelopes from across the country to try to purchase them at the state level, get them printed, and provide them to the local jurisdictions so that they were able to, again, adjust their process for this very large increase in absentee voting by mail, and make sure that they had the envelopes that they needed.

We also had to work with public health officials to develop guidance specific to this crisis. So there’s guidance out there about, you know, how to conduct oneself sort of in public spaces, but we needed to adjust that to elections. And so we worked with a public health official in our state, in our emergency operations center, to develop over twenty-five different guidance documents for local election officials to incorporate social distancing and other public health best practices into their election day procedures.

And another huge thing that the local election officials had to overcome was a shortage of poll workers. So when this crisis first sort of became front and center we did a survey of our local election officials to ask them about shortages of poll workers. At the conclusion of that survey we found that our local election officials had a shortage of about seven thousand poll workers. So in a higher turnout election we have about twenty thousand to thirty thousand poll workers working statewide. And the clerks were reporting a shortage of about seven thousand. It was closer to two thousand that they had a critical need for, in terms of being able to open their polling places.

And so we explored a lot of avenues with recruitment, putting together tools for the locals to use to recruit poll workers either through other government entities or through private industry and their communities, utilizing maybe teachers unions or college students, people that may be available during this time period that would serve safely, because poll workers are, if you look at historical data, they’re typically in an age demographic that might be more susceptible to COVID-19. And so the poll workers we typically relied on were no longer available. Ultimately, some of our recruitment efforts through those other channels, they yielded some poll workers, but we found we still had a pretty major shortage.

And so the Wisconsin National Guard was able to serve in plainclothes in the communities where they’re actually residents as poll workers. So on the Sunday before the election, the National Guard was able to active about 2,500 Guards members, again in their local communities where they reside, to serve as poll workers. And we trained them at the state level using some online training on that Sunday. And on the Monday they were then deployed to the municipality where they’d be assigned to assist with learning about how to be a poll worker in that jurisdiction, with helping with setup, so that they could again report on Tuesday to serve as poll workers.

It was a very well-received from program from the clerks’ perspective. They felt supported. They felt like, you know, this was something that was absolutely needed to be able to accomplish their election day. But of course, there’s a narrative that needs to be managed along with that because I think people visualized it as different than it ended up being. Again, these are neighbors, friends from their community that serve in the Guard that were serving as poll workers in plainclothes. And so that was a big learning experience for us as well.

But overall, you know, I think the credit for being able to open up 1,850 polling locations in the communities around the state goes to our local election officials. Every step of the way, they were incredibly resilient, resourceful. And no matter what challenge was thrown their way, they found a way to overcome. Again, they had to accept the fact that they had these parameters that were handed to them by our state law, by the court system, and they found a way within those parameters to make sure that they opened their polls in all 1,850 communities. And so at the state level our only job was really to make sure that we were supporting their incredible efforts through that process.

FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Let’s now go to questions. And also feel free to share best practices in your—in your community. So let’s go, Brandon (sp), to the questions. And please announce yourself.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions.

(Gives queuing instructions.)

Caller, your line is live.

Q: Hi. I’m Lieutenant Dieterich (ph) with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

We have vice presidential debates coming up here in October. My question is, do you think they’ll be held here traditionally, or do you think that’s going to be virtually elsewhere? We’re trying to prepare for that.

MORRELL: Gosh, that’s a really great question. I’m not even sure I’m in the best position to answer that. So maybe I’ll hand it to Meagan. One of the tough things I think that we’re all dealing with right now is the uncertainty of what each week, or each month, is going to look like, and not having solid information around that from—I think what I’m advising people to do is plan for all the scenarios and be ready to execute.

WOLFE: Yeah. I think, you know, from—that is a good question, and something that we’ve been asked a lot to about, like, the Democratic National Convention that’s supposed to be happening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this summer. And I believe it’s been moved at this point, but it’s still planned to be in person. And so I think, you know, we’re all kind of grappling with these issues too about, you know, whether or not these things are going to be happening in our communities in person or remotely. And so I don’t really have an answer to that either, but I understand sort of the issues that surround that in terms of wanting to know so that we can all be best prepared. But, you know, all those events are organized by parties or by organizations, not necessarily by government or state entities.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Caller, your line is live. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. My name’s Tom Brownson. I’m in Astoria, Oregon. I’m in the city council.

And I just wanted to make a quick comment about voting by mail. As probably many of you know, Oregon has been doing it for some time. And I think that if anybody talked to anybody in Oregon you would see that it has been very successful, it’s very secure, and I’d just like to promote that, just in general. And that’s it. Thank you.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Gail Pellerin with Santa Cruz County clerk. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi. Thank you. I’m just wondering, especially from Meagan, what lessons did you learn from the primary that you’re looking at doing in November? Like what would you do differently in November?

WOLFE: Sure. Thank you for the question. So you know, there are so many things that we have on the list to do for November. You know, like I mentioned, this election was kind of the perfect storm because all of this happened after ballots were already out. So ideally you want to know what the rules are when you send ballots out. If there are going to be changes to the deadlines, that’s something you want to communicate with voters when you send the ballots out. In these circumstances, we weren’t able to do that. There were court decisions that changed the deadlines or the requirements for things like the witness requirements or for the return dates for the ballots changed, actually, days before the election. And so I think, you know, trying to identify where our dependencies are in the system. So maybe not specific so much to COVID-19, but where are our dependencies in the system?

One example is things like our envelopes right now. Our envelopes for absentee ballots are very dependent on really specific criteria to make sure they meet the design requirements for the U.S. Postal Service. And because of that, it means that we can’t quickly adapt or change the process. We have to rely on very experienced print vendors. And so how can we make that process more resilient, so that if there are—(audio break)—be it for a health crisis or some other crisis, how can we have a more resilient process to be able to adapt, you know, changing needs that may come up in that process?

We also found that, you know, we’ve always had a really strong emphasis on usability in our office, making sure that we’re getting actual feedback from voters, from clerks about how they interact with the process, and that they can be successful. And we found that, you know, there’s a real need to be able to continue to solidify ourselves as the legitimate source of information so that as things change people know where to go for the correct information. We’ve—you know, as Jennifer talked about—we’re facing this sort of sea of dis- and misinformation that’s out there trying to confuse voters, maybe intentionally or not. And you know, when you’re faced with a crisis where things are changing do voters know where to go for the correct information? Have you done enough to solidify yourselves at the state or at the local level as the legitimate source of information, so when voters are searching for the truth they know where to go?

And so I think those are two really big things that we took away from this. And I know they’re kind of, you know, nebulous concepts, but finding out where our dependencies are and making ourselves more resilient for any type of crisis that might come our way, and then making sure that we’re, you know, continuing to establish ourselves as the legitimate sources of information so that if there is a crisis that people have no doubt about where to go to get the correct information.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Audra Hendrix with Kendall County Board, Illinois. Please go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Can you hear me?

OPERATOR: Yes, ma’am.

FASKIANOS: Yes, we can. Go ahead.

Q: I was thinking that there are so many disparate systems being used nationwide for voting—different technologies, different vendors, different rules for every state. And the comments that were made earlier in regard to auditing elections, that I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the status of exit polling, which I recognize would be difficult to do during a pandemic, but perhaps by the fall we won’t be in such a severe position, because it seems to me that exit polling would be a great way to validate the election nationwide, so to speak.

MORRELL: Oh, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I want to say whether exiting polling—the validity or usefulness of that. What I will tell you is there are some good standards around post-election audits. And a majority of states actually conduct some type of post-election audit. So in some states it’s more of a traditional or a fixed-percentage audit, where a portion of the ballots are recounted and reviewed. And then around the work that I’m doing with risk-limiting audits, while it’s new and it’s growing, and there’s still just a small handful of states and jurisdictions that have successfully performed that, the idea is—and I think it’s just important to note the difference between exit polling, what a voter thinks they voted, and actually looking at the ballot and comparing that to the way the voting system interpreted that ballot. So in that type of an audit we take a random sample of ballots and we compare those to the way the voting system interpreted the ballot and the reported outcome, to verify that it’s correct.

And I think—I think one of the biggest challenges is—and, you know, this is just me speaking from anecdotal experience—is we all—we all are challenged—or, we all have difficulties remembering the things we think we did. And so, you know, having a voter come out and recount all of the choices they made, I guess most of those exit polls are around, you know, the top candidate—presidential candidate. I think that’s challenging, to do that with a fair amount of accuracy. But you’re right. A focus on auditing, both post-election and pre-election, are really important to validating the work that’s done. And there are a number of places throughout the spectrum of running elections, from the time you register a voter till you do that final canvasser certification, where we can pause and so some tests, or some verification, or some audits to make sure that things are running the way they should be.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question or comment.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question will come from Timothy Horrigan with New Hampshire State House of Representatives. Please go ahead.

Q: Yes. Hello. I’m Tim Horrigan, state rep for New Hampshire, which actually also runs its elections at the municipal level. And luckily our primary is not till September. And we’ve already had some issues getting that up and running.

But my question is about there’s a famous thing with supposedly five polling places in Milwaukee County, and the many people snaking around. And checking on Wikipedia see Milwaukee County actually has nineteen cities and then probably some areas that aren’t part of any city. So, like, who exactly—why exactly were there only five polling places if it’s done on a municipal level? Like, I would have thought there’d be one or each ward in Milwaukee, and one for every other incorporated place in the county, so.

WOLFE: Thank you for the question. Thank you for the question. So there were actually—there were five polling places in the city of Milwaukee. So like you said, Milwaukee County has about nineteen jurisdictions. Each of them get to decide what they do in terms of polling places. So the city of Milwaukee obviously being the largest jurisdiction in our state, they had made the decision. So, again, the decisions are made at the municipal level here. And so it was certainly the city of Milwaukee that made that decision for their city. The other cities, towns and villages in Milwaukee County each made their own decisions about how they did polling.

Many of them are smaller communities that really typically only warrant one or two polling places to start with. And so there weren’t a lot of changes made in some of those other smaller communities. But in the city of Milwaukee that, you know, was the decision that was made at the municipal level by their governing body. The city of Milwaukee also has an election commission that oversees the process for their city. And so each of their polling places was sort of what we call a consolidated polling place. So in Wisconsin we don’t have a vote-center model. What we have a—(audio break)—model, which means that dependent on your address you’re assigned to a polling place. And so when a jurisdiction chooses to consolidate polling places, they’re assigning a certain number of wards and reporting units to that polling place.

So in Milwaukee typically they would have had about 180, I believe, two hundred polling places. And they consolidated it to those five. And they assigned various wards and reporting units to each of those polling places. And so I can’t really speak as to sort of the decision-making process there because that is a decision that was made at the municipal level.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question or comment, please.

OPERATOR: The next question or comment will come from Jean Durbin with Princeton Democrats. Please go ahead.

Q: Thank you. I have a two-part question. I’m wondering if you could please speak to effective communication methods regarding the safety of vote by mail and election integrity, if you have specific recommendations. And the second part of my question is specific ways to verify and establish the integrity of voter lists, if you could speak to that. Thanks.

MORRELL: Sure. I’ll take that first and then, Meagan, you might want to fill in any gaps that I leave. We tried to hit the communication on all media avenues. So social media, printed mailers to voters, engaging with local groups. And probably the most effective thing that we did in educating voters about how the process worked really was the way we designed our mail ballot packets—the envelopes and the instructions that went in them. There was a lot of thought behind that, and working with design experts to make sure that not only were we communicating how the process worked, how to correctly complete your ballot, but also what the other options were and where voters could turn for additional information, both on our local website and, like I said, as well as following us on social media, and things like that.

So I think that’s the first step. The other part of that is making sure, again, voters, and stakeholders, and others in the community really understand the process. So communicating that, whether it’s designing a ballot life cycle chart, or publishing those steps so that everybody’s aware of what each step in the process should look like, and also what opportunities there are for the public to view that. That’s maybe not thought of as an integral part of that communication campaign, but opportunities to offer tours of the facility, or live broadcasts of ballot processing really can fill some of those gaps, in addition to making a lot of allowances for poll watchers or other observers to come in.

And then on the integrity part of list maintenance—so, I should just say, this is a really tough thing. As Meagan mentioned, every state operates a little bit differently. Their laws are a little bit different. Their infrastructure around those voter databases are a little bit different. And the important thing to know is they’re not static databases. They’re very dynamic. If they were static, we could just do some regular audits. You know, once a month or something we could compare, you know, what’s there to what was there, and look for anomalies and things like that, where we might want to raise a red flag. But they’re changing every day.

Voters are in a typical environment, anyway—maybe not in a COVID environment, but in a typical environment—they’re going to the driver’s license office, they’re updating their address for states that offer online voter registration. Hopefully, they’re making those updates. And for vote-by-mail states, they’re regularly running that national change of address list from the Post Office. So those are—those are all things that are causing that database to change on a regular basis. And so how do you maintain the integrity of it?

One, you find as many sources as you can to validate against it. So I mentioned the NCOA list. There’s also the Election Registration Information Center. I might have got that wrong, ERIC, which is a collaborative of states sharing information with each other on voter registration so that they’re alerted to when a voter moves from one state to another, giving regular updates from Social Security on death records, things like that. Making list maintenance, is what we call that in election administration, a fairly regular practice and a regular part of your day-to-day operations I think is probably the best thing that you can do to make sure—you know, to maintain the integrity.

Meagan, I don’t know if you have anything you want to add.

WOLFE: Yeah. You know, I think those are all great answers and great points. You know, in terms of communicating effectively with voters, we’re always, you know, everyday kind of thinking about ways to better improve how we communicate with voters. And so we do a lot of what we call usability studies, where when we produce a document or informational campaign we go out and talk to voters, we test the message, we make sure that it’s understandable in that it’s sending the message that we want to. We learned a lot in sort of a real-live usability session in this April 7 election because it allowed us to see at a larger volume how people interact with the by-mail process, and where there are places that we need to better communicate the process and the requirements.

Now, of course, under the conditions of our spring primary there were a lot of changes in the process because of court rulings in the days and weeks before the election, which made it difficult for us to put out a consistent message that we were able to test. But looking forward to the rest of the year, and kind of understanding the shift in voter behavior, I think there’s a lot that we can learn about where voters need more information about how to interact with the by-mail process. Setting them up for success. Helping them understand the expectations. How do you interact with the process? How do you request a ballot? What do you need to have once you get your ballot? Letting them know about things like a witness requirement or the photo ID requirement to request their ballot.

And so, you know, again, kind of communicating those milestones to them in a way that’s understandable is something that we’re going to be working on now that we have a lot of feedback from voters about questions or challenges that they faced in the April 7 election. We’ve also continued to be doing some surveys with Wisconsin voters about what they understand in terms of election security and what’s important to them. And some of our statewide surveys so far have shown that they want to know the mechanics of how voting works.

That there’s a lot of misinformation about things like absentee ballots are only counted if the race is close. That, you know, the clerks hold onto those ballots until they know the results, and then they count them. That’s not true. And so correcting some of that misinformation and making sure people understand the mechanics, that every single absentee ballot is always counted, regardless of the margin, is going to be, you know, an important part of that, and making sure that people feel confident in that process as their needs and voter behavior sort of shift.

In terms of list maintenance, I think Jennifer is spot on. Every state is different. And our state is certainly no exception to being different in that area. So there’s what’s called the National Voter Registration Act, which mandates list maintenance for most states. There are six states that are exempt, Wisconsin being one of them, where we develop our procedures at a state level, that they’re not mandated at the federal level. It also means that we don’t have integration for things like registration with the DMV or other agencies. Again, most of our registration happens at the polls on election day. And so list maintenance is happening, though, every single day in the statewide database. So I think technology has brought us a long way in the last few years in terms of being able to integrate those checks on a daily basis. Working with partner agencies to make sure that your list only contains eligible voters.

In Wisconsin, another thing that we have that’s different is, again, that decentralized system. Because we have 1,850 local election officials, they have a really strong local connection to their voters. They understand when something has changed. The probably know most of the voters in smaller communities. And so they’re able to integrate that information that they have, through tax records, through other things that they do at the municipal level, to make sure that the lists are staying up-to-date, and that we’re able to sort of audit those lists against other available data sources to make sure that they’re staying fresh on a daily basis.

FASKIANOS: This is Irina. Just to interject here, in order to do all this how much money is needed? Do people need to think about increasing their budgets to deal with the new realities of COVID-19? If you could talk a little bit about how you’re thinking about that.

WOLFE: Sure. So specific to our state there was recently a new grant awarded to state election agencies as part of the CARES Act to respond to COVID-19 and sort of help with this transition to vote by mail. That being said, the funds have to be spent this year, which of course presents a sustainability issue for all of us. It’s kind of an assumption at this point that as voters become more familiar with the vote-by-mail process that it may be something that they continue to utilize into the future. We don’t really know how it’s going to impact voter behavior in the future.

But to talk a little bit to the cost point, especially at the local level, when you think about historically our states operating as, you know, an in-person voting state with less than 10 percent of ballots being transacted by mail, when municipalities budget for that, they’re budgeting for a really small percentage of their funds to be spent on this by-mail transaction. They are not budgeting for 80 percent of their ballots to be sent by mail, in addition to still having all those election day polling place costs as well.

And so postage costs—just postage alone if you look ahead to an 80 percent projection in by-mail voting, and let’s say that’s sustained for our August and our November statewide elections, we would be looking at over $4 million just in postage costs for the state of Wisconsin. And that’s probably a low estimate. And so those are $4 million that weren’t budgeted at the local level that have to be spent on just postage. And so trying to think of a way that we can use those federal funds, build postage into our statewide system, so that it’s not an unbudgeted expense for the local election officials.

Envelopes, that’s going to be another huge cost as well. Again, they’re planning for about 10 percent. And you don’t want to buy more than you need, because things can change in the law. Things could change with the courts. And so typically they don’t buy enough envelopes to have enough for, you know, five years, or something like that. They’re going to have a small stock. And so these are all costs that they haven’t planned for, in addition to the supplies, in addition to paying poll workers because there may be fewer traditional sort of poll workers that have served in that capacity that are able to do so safely, and being able to incentivize that process.

And so, yes, I think budgeting is going to be a big part of that, you know, thinking into the future. So we have those federal funds for some of those expenses for this year that we can reallocate to the local level to adapt to this for this year. But as we look into the future, how is this going to impact the budgets at the local level and where they should allocate their resources if more people do choose to transact their ballots by mail?

FASKIANOS: Thank you.

MORRELL: And, Irina, I think one thing that I’ll—

FASKIANOS: Yes, go ahead.

MORRELL: I’ll add to that, if you don’t mind.

FASKIANOS: No, go ahead.

MORRELL: I think we all should be advocating for the federal government to pay the postage both ways. And the reason I say that is there’s already a mechanism in place. There’s a federal indicia for our ballots that go out to our military members and our overseas citizens that every election jurisdiction can use. They can put that on their envelopes currently, right now, today. And the federal government pays the outgoing postage to send a ballot out and the postage for that voter to return the ballot. And so it would be easy—those accounts are set up. The indicia’s created—to just extend that to every voter that gets a ballot, and to extend that to every jurisdiction that’s expanding voting by mail. I think that would be one really easy solution that, if those funds were approved, could be implemented almost overnight.

I know that there are other organizations advocating for that, but I think it’s important to put that at the top of people’s radar. Meagan mentioned all of those things around equipment and supplies. To do—to do voting—to conduct an election primarily by mail well requires things like high-speed sorters, and high-speed scanners, and automatic signature verification equipment, that I’m going to assume most jurisdictions that are just looking at this as a one-time thing are not going to invest in. And so Meagan’s absolutely right, thinking about then if we’re going to do this just by brute force—meaning, we’re not going to invest in the technology to automate this, rather we’re going to have to bring in people to do that work—what is that—what is that going to look like? In addition to the cost to pay those folks to process those ballots, having the facilities big enough to allow them to do it—do that and still social distance, keep that six-food distancing, I think that will be the other challenge. And so it might mean budgeting for temporary facilities that need to be rented or converted into mail ballot processing facilities.

FASKIANOS: Great information. Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Andria McClellan with Norfolk, Virginia City Council. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi. Good afternoon.

So I’m on the ballot. We have an election here, a municipal election, May 5. And we’ve been watching Wisconsin. And we’re very concerned about having folks at our polls, as you can imagine. The governor of Virginia had recommended the May elections be moved to November. Unfortunately, when our General Assembly reconvened last week they didn’t support that. So he’s now moved it back two weeks because statutorily that’s the only thing he can do. We now face—we now face a lack of poll workers, as you can imagine, for May 19. And our registrar is going to request at the state level that we close all polls and only have one central polling location that will be absentee voting, basically, poll—all drive-through. This is a huge endeavor. We’re not sure we’re going to be able to get it approved by the state.

To give you some context, in Virginia municipal elections—many of them have in November, but we have sixteen cities and ninety-nine towns which still hold their municipal elections in May. So there’s been a lot of pressure on this. Just from Wisconsin’s perspective would like to hear if you have any thoughts or ideas on how best to carry this out. Is this the right way to do it? I heard you mention having the National Guard help at the polls. Would love any input there. Thanks.

WOLFE: Great. Well, thank you. And, you know, the best of luck to all of you that are facing elections, you know, in the coming weeks and months here. You know, to say it’s not extremely challenging experience would be a lie. It is certainly going to be a challenge. So our thoughts with all of you as you embark on this, you know, very challenging experience. In terms of some of those solutions you offered, yeah, that’s a lot of what we heard from our jurisdictions too in terms of how they chose to conduct their elections.

One of the things I will say is that it was important for us to have flexibility in our procedure and allow jurisdictions to be able to adapt their procedures within the parameters of the law that worked for their jurisdiction. We had jurisdictions that did drive-through voting. Some of them had big city garages or other things where they were basically able to set up their voting equipment, their poll books, their, you know, tabulating equipment in a drive-through fashion so that they were able to just allow people to drive through, and they didn’t have to have a lot of transaction.

We also had a lot of places that did what we sort of call curbside. We’ve always had a curbside option for people with disabilities that may not be able to enter the polling places. But some jurisdictions expanded that process so that people brought the ballots out to their cars, they were able to show their photo ID through the window on their car and conduct the transaction that way. And you know, we found that with very few exceptions—so, if you look at the national news stories, it really focused on two jurisdictions and some of the procedural decisions that they made. But in 1,948 jurisdictions they made incredible resourceful decisions on how to adapt communities.

And I think the more we would have gotten in the way at sort of the state level in prescribing really rigid requirements for them probably would have been a detriment. And I think allowing them to understand their communities, what resources they had at their disposal, and come up with creative solutions that still met the letter of the law was really integral in them being successful. And so I think working with your other states and federal and local partners to understand the pool of resources, what’s out there, what ideas are out there, sharing ideas, and trying to understand what might work best for your community, or for your county, or your area in conducting that election. And you know, finding, again, you know, sort of creative ways to be able to make that work.

In a lot of our jurisdictions where they have the drive-through voting, the curbside voting, other sort of untraditional ways that they were able to accomplish this while marrying sort of the election laws with the public health guidance, voters’ experience at these polling places was that they—you know, they said that they felt incredibly safe. That they felt like things were clean. That they felt like it was very well-run in terms of them being able to conduct voting in a safe way. And so I think, you know, again, just understanding what your resource pool looks like and letting each jurisdiction sort of come up with ideas that work best to meet the needs of their voters, their resources, and still, you know, meeting the letter of the law.

FASKIANOS: Jennifer, anything to add before we go to the next question?

MORRELL: No, but I will second what Meagan said. One of my favorite things that came out of Wisconsin was one of her jurisdictions—like she said, when you give them the ability to be creative, utilized book drop boxes in local libraries that had been shut down due to COVID, and repurposed those, I guess, or made an agreement with the library to use those as ballot drop boxes. So I think she’s right. I think give them some opportunity. They know their community. And they will come up with some creative ways to get the job done.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Stacy Loar-Porter with Lincoln Charter Township. Please go ahead with your question.

Q: Hi. My question is for—like Wisconsin and Michigan, we have—it’s all done at a municipal level. Did you run into—did anybody run into issues with the precinct locations saying they don’t want to host the election or allow you to use their building any longer for the election because of the fear of contamination, having to clean after? Because we, you know, use churches, and legions, and stuff like that. Did you run into issues where the location said, you know what, we don’t want you to have elections here anymore?

WOLFE: Yes. We definitely did run into that issue. So, again, because the crisis became, you know, front and center, and the stay-at-home order happened in the middle of ballots being out, our law actually requires that jurisdictions solidify their polling places more than thirty days before an election. And what we found was the first challenge we faced was there were a lot of polling places in residential care facilities—so, nursing homes and other care facilities. And of course, those had to be moved. Those had to be moved, and they had to be moved within that sort of thirty-day time period, which, you know, really wasn’t allowed under the law.

And so a lot of adjustments had to be made. We found that there were a lot of other facilities that were willing to let people move in as polling places. We also found a lot of our jurisdictions ended up consolidating because they did not expect the same amount of turnout as they typically would for that election. And so a lot of our jurisdictions were able to very successfully consolidate polling places, to identify larger spaces. They found, I think, in a lot of places that even though there had been a movement to move polling places out of schools in the last couple of years, that schools ended up being a really good option for a lot of places because nobody was using them at the time. They had large gymnasiums and other spaces. And so, yes, there was a lot of moving of polling places, either because the facility was no longer available because the owner of the facility wasn’t comfortable for with that arrangement, or because in some cases they weren’t large enough to accomplish social distancing.

And so I think looking ahead to polling place options is definitely a really big planning aspect for any state or locality that has an election coming up. It’s finding large enough spaces that still are accessible to voters. That was another thing that came up, that as jurisdictions were moving their polling places, that some of the voters in the communities with accessibility issues were concerned about where those polling places were being relocated, and if they would be able to access them with being able to still cast their ballot privately and independently. And so I think there’s a lot of considerations there.

And the more lead time you have for planning that and making sure that you can find an adequate facility where you’re still able to be accessible within the community to people to be able to get there, while still being able to accomplish social distancing, is a big consideration. And thinking about places like those residential care facilities. A lot of times nursing homes and care facilities, senior centers, other places are used as polling places, because they’re accessible. And so during this crisis, those are no longer appropriate options for the safety of the residents. And so kind of thinking through some of those places ahead of time, and trying to identify alternative locations, coming up with contingency plans for those alternative locations in case they become unavailable closer to the election.

MORRELL: And I’ll just add, this is a really good example of why you need to spend the next six months focused on communication and helping voters, sort of driving voters to your website, your social media platforms, as the place to go for election information and getting them in the habit of that, and helping them—you know, recognize that there are some things that might change. The place you normally vote may change. The hours and days may change. But the thing that won’t change is the place that you get information to let you know what’s happening. So I think all of those things Meagan said are really validate the need to work on strategies to get information to voters.

FASKIANOS: Jennifer, how do you deal with people that don’t have access to the internet, or older citizens who might not be using social media channels or going to websites?

MORRELL: Yeah. That’s where those printed mailers are really helpful, as well as there are a number of community groups, I know when I was in Colorado, that we worked with. They had their own newsletter, or way to get information out to members of their community. So making sure that you’re engaged with them and sharing that same information that you would post on your website with those groups is one way to help with that. We also did some work with radio, I don’t know how effective that was, as well as with local news stations just to alert voters to some of those changes.

WOLFE: And I’ll just add real quickly—

FASKIANOS: Go ahead.

WOLFE: Is just posting actual physical notices on the doors of usual polling places. So because our changes happened so shortly before the election, there was still consolidation or moving of polling places happening on the day before, even the morning of election day, because of some of the changes that happened the day before. And so posting notices on the doors of usual polling places facilities in addition to those technological solutions, so that if somebody does show up to city hall, or they do show up to the polling places they’ve been going to for ten years, that there’s instructions directing them on where they should actually go, so that in real time they have that feedback and they know how to interact with the process.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: The next question will come from Joe Tirio with McHenry County clerk. Please go ahead.

Q: Hi, there. At both our state and national level there’s an effort to go to vote by mail. So two questions: What has been done in other areas to combat coercion and fraud? And what are the first considerations we should have as election authorities as we look at what is undoubtably going to be a much higher vote-by-mail volume?

MORRELL: Sure. So I’ll take that first. I think the important thing to remember when we’re thinking about election security and integrity is it’s always a layered approach. There’s not, like, one single thing that secures us. It’s a layer of things. So when you think about expanding vote by mail, some things that have been really effective—again, starting with a solid voter list is important. Also, thinking about utilizing ballot tracking applications. There are a number of them out there.

They utilize the IMb technology used by the Post Office so that voters can sign up and track their ballots from the time it leaves the print venders until it arrives at their house, and then from the time they mail it at their house to it being received by the local election official. They can receive notifications through the process to know that that happens. I think that’s really important. It’s valuable not only for voters, but it’s helpful for election administrators. It’s a great way to spot concerns or kind of raise red flags if you can see that that mail is not moving the way that, you know, it normally would be.

The second part is signature verification. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best way that we have to verify a voter’s identity. Ideally you want it to be a layered approach, again, that it’s not just one pass by one individual that decides if the signature is valid or not, but having a tiered approach to that where if a signature’s rejected it gets a second look, usually by a bipartisan team when they make that decision. And then having a way to respond to that, to give voters a way to cure that or fix that, not only does that support the voter—I mean, ultimately, that’s—we want to make sure that very valid vote is counted—but that outreach to the voter through that cure process, whether it’s a letter sent to them, or an email.

Usually it requires them to sign an affidavit and provide some copy of their ID with that. That’s actually a good deterrent to fraud as well. Because what it says is if there’s an issue with your signature, we’re going to reach out to you. Again, depending on state laws, which vary—and I should just note, some states don’t require signature verification, so that’s, you know, a policy issue to address. But for states that allow, you know, prosecution of that, that acts as a deterrent as well. Saying we’re going to reach out to you, and we’re going to verify if this is you or not. And if we don’t get a response, we’re probably going to send, you know, somebody from the DA’s office to knock on your door and, you know, try to figure out what happened.

I will say, in Colorado we had very few cases where we suspected that a ballot was submitted by somebody other than the voter. And the important thing, I think, to note, is those were not votes that were counted, right? Those were ballots that were not counted, that we set aside for review by the District Attorney’s Office. And they were few—just a small handful. So I think—I think that’s important.

Yeah, I’ll leave it at that. Meagan, I don’t know if you want to add anything.

WOLFE: I would just echo, you know, the part about voter transparency. Whenever we’re doing anything, really, in elections, I always try to emphasize that people reporting issues to us is part of the process—it’s a good part of the process. The voters being involved, being able to see their record. So going onto the state’s websites or, you know, in some states where they operate in large county sort of settings going to the county’s website, to be able to see the status of their registration. To be able to see the status of their absentee request. And to be able to report any sort of anomalies. And I know we’re working on building a lot more transparency into the process for the postal system piece of it, because right now we don’t track it like you would a package. It relies on the clerk entering information into the statewide system that voters are able to then see through their voter record.

And so I think encouraging the public to be involved in making sure that everything is correct with their record is a big part of it, so that people are able to sort of flag the process. I always like to tout to our sort of—(inaudible)—process, or, you know, in a lot of jurisdictions around the country, they know their voters. They know how to flag anomalies. We can set up technical sort of audits in our process and our statewide system to make sure that everything is functioning correctly. And those do catch any, you know, sort of anomalies that happen in the system. But also having that human element, where local election officials understand their constituency and are able to also flag anomalies. So I think the more transparency and the more people are involved in having sort of eyes on the process is a really positive thing.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question will come from Marty McGrath with the city of Ferndale, Michigan. Please go ahead.

Q: Yes. My concern—I’m not even sure it’s a question—but we have a large amount of mistrust in our postal system in my municipality. We also are a decentralized system in Michigan, local clerks send out all of the applications and ballots. And we have—you know, we have so many that never make it to where they’re going. You know, I posed this question in a recent forum that I attended, and all I got as an answer was, well, the USPS is the most trusted branch of government. But in my community, it’s not doing what it needs to do. Do you have any ideas of how to address that and, you know, build on that partnership? We have a battalion, a small battalion, of U.S. Postal Service supervisors who we contact with daily during election season. And the problem just never really seems to get much better.

MORRELL: Yeah. That’s an excellent question. It’s actually—you can tell my voice I get kind of excited by it. (Laughs.) Because that ballot drop-off locations or ballot drop boxes is actually a best practice for voting by mail. I think it’s really important to recognize that there are communities where the postal system isn’t trusted. And I don’t think it matters, you know, why that is the case. But ballot drop boxes, whether they’re permanent, twenty-four hour boxes, or they’re temporary—meaning, they’re indoors in a location such as a library or a recreation center or someplace, or even a drive-through drop box, sort of solves the issue that you’re discussing.

People sometimes are surprised to learn that in Colorado about 80 percent of the voters who return their mail ballot do so via one of these drop boxes. And there are different reasons for that, whether it’s just wanting to ensure that it gets put directly into the hands of the local election officials versus going through the USPS system, but there are a number of best practices. And I can send some links to Irina to post so, you know, I don’t take time to go through all of those. But I would say instituting that on whatever scale your law allows, or your resources allow, or you feel comfortable doing, is really important. I’ve never seen a ballot drop box that I’ve set up not be used.

WOLFE: Yeah. And I guess from our perspective, we’re right there with you. I think those are issues that we’re grappling with as well and trying to navigate as well. And, you know, I think one of the big projects we have on our plate as we look ahead to the fall elections is, again, the integration of the Intelligent Mail barcodes to the process, so that we have more transparency for voters and more accountability from all sides—from the side of the election official to be able to show that the ballot was sent, and on the part of the Postal Service to be able to understand where the ballot is in the process, and to get some more measures in terms of how long the mail takes from point A to point b, and identify where there might be some issues as well in the process. And so I think, you know, as our models change and we have to shift resources to a new model of voting that historically hasn’t been utilized a lot in some of our states, there are these new challenges, and making sure that we understand the postal system.

We had a court ruling as part of what happened in our April elections where in the week and the day before the election all of a sudden postmarks became part of the process for whether or not a ballot could be counted, which isn’t part of our process now. And so we learned a lot about how that process works, and that there’s not really a consistent practice if ballots are even postmarked, necessarily, and sort of how that’s done at each local postal branch. And so I think there’s a lot that some of us that are shifting sort of models still need to learn about the process to make sure, again, there is transparency and accountability built in throughout the process.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. We have several questions in queue and, unfortunately, we’re not going to get to them all. But let’s take one last question. And my apologies to all of you who are still holding.

OPERATOR: Thank you for the question. The next question will come from Paul Lux with Okaloosa County supervisor of elections. Please go ahead.

Q: Hey, everybody. This question’s specifically for Meagan. Hey, Meagan.

WOLFE: Hey, Paul.

Q: I wanted to ask about the activation of the National Guard as poll workers. Was that a—I know that you mentioned that they served in their local communities, which would be great for me because I have a guard unit right here with a lot of people. But was that—was that activation mandatory or voluntary?

WOLFE: Thanks for the question. So it was voluntary. And you know, us as the state elections agency, we had no sort of authority in making that decision. The governor had to activate the Guard and put them on active duty orders. And so what happened is that on, I believe it was, the Friday before the election the governor made that call. And then the National Guard put out a call to service members in all seventy-two of our counties asking them to serve—volunteer to serve in that capacity. So they went on active orders. They were paid for their time. But they were able to volunteer.

And so they sort of put out a call saying we need this number of volunteers in each given county, and then asked for those volunteers. And I believe they did some follow up to encourage volunteers in places where maybe they didn’t get enough. But it was on a voluntary basis. And fortunately, enough we were able to get about 2,500 people statewide that did answer that call and served in their local communities.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. And Jennifer, do you want to just add any last thoughts before we close?

MORRELL: (Laughs.) So many. There’s so much to contemplate and think about as we move towards November. I think the important thing to keep in mind is we’re all in this together. We’re going to cross some challenges that we’ve probably never seen and we probably haven’t planned for, despite all of our contingency planning. And I think the more we recognize that we have some pretty amazing state and local officials running elections, doing incredible work with some difficult situations, some difficult circumstances, often limited resources, and looking for ways we can just pitch in, contribute. I would encourage everybody on the call that isn’t already running elections of their own to think about ways you can volunteer to help or, you know, share a skill that you have, or just volunteer to be a poll worker.

FASKIANOS: Thank you. Meagan, any last words?

WOLFE: No, I would just, you know, echo a lot of that. And best to all of you. It sounds like in some way, shape, or form you’re all involved in the election process. And I think that’s true of even non-government officials. We all play a role in making sure that our elections and our democracy are able to function, especially under these trying times. So you know, again, thank you to all of you on this call for your public service and your role in ensuring that, you know, all the vital functions of our democracy are able to continue—and, you know, elections being one of them. And I think there’s a lot of people looking for additional ways to serve their communities during these really uncertain and trying times.

And so, again, you know, being willing to serve in those capacities as poll works, the boards of canvass in your communities that make sure that the tally’s correct. There’s so many roles in making sure that elections run smoothly and that the tally is correct at the end that are really vital to our functions. And just offering support to your local election offices in making sure that they have what they need to run. I know that in a lot of Wisconsin communities their public works departments made sure to make those plexiglass sort of barriers for the poll worker table. There was really a collaborative effort. I know that some of the sheriff departments or the police departments helped in making sure that, you know, some of the poll workers were able to get there, or things that—you know, were able to help with things like social distancing in their communities. And so I think we ought to play a vital role as those important days this fall gets close and closer. So thank you for all that you do, and all that you will do, to support those workers.

FASKIANOS: Well, thank you both very much. As we typically do after these calls, we will collect resources. I think Jennifer mentioned that she would be willing to give us some trusted links to share out with all of you. And Meagan probably has some as well. So we will be putting that together and sending it out to you all. You can follow Jennifer Morrell on Twitter at @VotingGeek. And you can follow the Wisconsin Elections Commission at @WI_Elections. We appreciate your all being with us today. Again, I apologize that we couldn’t get to all of the questions. But we will continue to convene this forum and look forward to having you stay involved in this conversation here. Please let us know how we can support the important work you are doing by emailing us at StateAndLocal@CFR.org. And we look forward to your continued participation. Stay well.

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