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Secretaries of State Announce National Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for Elections
NASS Members Developing Guidance for State Election Offices in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy
Posted Date: 3/4/2013

Contact: Catherine Lu, Public Information Officer 
             (702) 486-6982 / 334-7953 

(WASHINGTON, DC; March 4, 2013) – To support state efforts aimed at establishing sound administrative election practices in emergency conditions, Nevada Secretary of State and National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) President Ross Miller and NASS members today announce the formation of a Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for Elections. The task force is a national initiative, formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast just days before the presidential election on November 6, 2012. The effort will focus on identifying laws and practices that enhance the ability of state election officials to prepare for, and respond to, emergency situations.

"Our members want to identify the strategies that worked well for election officials who dealt with the fallout from Hurricane Sandy while avoiding major disruptions to voting on Election Day, and more importantly, find some cost-effective ways in which states can better prepare for such emergency scenarios in the future," remarked NASS President Ross Miller of Nevada, who serves on the task force. "By bringing together a diverse group of Secretaries of State and independent state election chiefs, we hope to offer guidance that will improve the collective capabilities of the states."

Miller named Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler to lead the national task force, which includes chief state election officials from twenty-two states and the District of Columbia. Members will work with a wide array of stakeholders, including federal and state emergency management officials, as NASS develops a white paper with guidance for states.

"I am honored to be leading this timely effort aimed at increasing the ability of election officials to prepare for emergency situations," noted Louisiana Secretary of State Schedler, co-chair of the task force. "Having seen first-hand after Hurricane Katrina how natural disasters can affect variables such as polling place locations, voting lines, balloting procedures and voter outreach, we want to help states plan for what to do both before the storm, such as securing their voting machines out of harm’s way, and after the storm, including how to hold an election when phone lines are down and the electricity isn't working."

"In Connecticut we lived through storm-related and man-made election emergencies in each of the last three years,” said Connecticut Secretary of State Merrill, co-chair of the task force. “We are eager to share what we learned, and study best practices in other states. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the country on this task force so election officials everywhere can save time and money while ensuring that as many votes as possible are counted following a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy.”

The NASS Task Force on Emergency Preparedness includes the following members:

Task Force Co-Chairs:

Connecticut: Denise Merrill, Secretary of State

Louisiana: Tom Schedler, Secretary of State

Task Force Members:

Arkansas: Mark Martin, Secretary of State

California: Debra Bowen, Secretary of State

Colorado: Scott Gessler, Secretary of State

Delaware: Elaine Manlove, Commissioner, State Election Commission

District of Columbia: Clifford Tatum, Executive Director, District Board of Elections

Florida: Ken Detzner, Secretary of State

Georgia: Brian Kemp, Secretary of State

Illinois: Becky Glazier, Assistant to Executive Director, State Board of Elections

Kentucky: Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State

Maryland: Linda Lamone, Administrator, State Board of Elections

Michigan: Ruth Johnson, Secretary of State

Minnesota: Mark Ritchie, Secretary of State

Mississippi: Delbert Hosemann, Jr., Secretary of State

Nevada: Ross Miller, Secretary of State

New York: Robert Brehm & Todd Valentine, Co-Directors, State Board of Elections

North Carolina: Gary Bartlett, Executive Director, State Board of Elections

Oregon: Kate Brown, Secretary of State

South Carolina: Marci Andino, Executive Director, State Election Commission

Virginia: Donald Palmer, Secretary, State Board of Elections

West Virginia: Natalie Tennant, Secretary of State

Wisconsin: Kevin Kennedy, Director and General Counsel, Government Accountability Board

The task force, which will convene by conference call beginning in March, will determine the range of issues that will be researched and addressed. Emergency planning and response issues that arose due to Hurricane Sandy included emergency voting/absentee ballot procedures, state-local/municipal information-sharing and emergency communications, equipment shortages, emergency authority issues and continuity of elections.

The task force's white paper is scheduled to be released early next year.

About NASS
Founded in 1904, NASS is the oldest, nonpartisan professional organization of public officials in the U.S. Members include the 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico. NASS serves as a medium for the exchange of information between states and fosters cooperation in the development of public policy. The association has key initiatives in the areas of elections and voting, state business services and digital archiving, international relations and state securities regulation, as well as several well-established awards programs.

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