Eyes at the polls: Nationwide grassroots election integrity movement mobilizes for Election Day
"We were solving problems in real time, not waiting until after the elections," said Virginia Institute for Public Policy President Lynn Taylor.
As states and localities across the country prepare for Election Day on Tuesday, a grassroots election integrity organization is training and helping mobilize citizens to monitor and participate in elections.
The Election Integrity Network (EIN) began by hosting a summit last year prior to Virginia's 2021 gubernatorial race to train people to work the polls on Election Day. As a result of the summit, state and local coalitions were created from task forces to focus on election issues and share them with each other so they can learn from everyone's experiences.
One of the resources EIN provides is the "Citizens Guide to Building an Election Integrity Infrastructure" to help people get involved in election integrity in their communities.
According to the guide, the primary focus of state task forces is "the state election board, the state office and operations," while local task forces prioritize "the local election board office and operations in that county, unit or parish."
Within each local task force are working groups that have different areas of expertise, such as technology and voting systems; protecting vulnerable voters; understanding and following the U.S. Postal Service and its interactions with the election offices; legal compliance and enforcement (including the laws governing list maintenance, FOIA/open records, and state and federal election laws); and legislative solutions.
EIN, which is led by chairman Cleta Mitchell, uses the coalition model that was first used in Virginia to build coalitions in other states. Virginia focused on training poll workers and watchers so that there was 85-90% coverage of polls during the state's off-year election in 2021. Nationwide, more than 80,000 poll workers and watchers have been recruited.
States where EIN is active include Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada, Tennessee, Minnesota, Illinois, and Arizona. EIN estimates it has trained more than 1,000 people in Pennsylvania, more than 2,000 each in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona, and more than 3,000 in Illinois.
During a press call on Thursday, President and Cofounder of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy Lynn Taylor said that last year the priority was cleaning voter rolls and recruiting poll watchers. The Virginia Fair Election Coalition was formed and had meetings twice a week for people to learn about election administration from experts in state and federal law.
"We were solving problems in real time, not waiting until after the elections," Taylor said.
The coalition focuses on bringing people together at the county level to ensure that elections are free, fair, and transparent, Taylor explained. Virginia currently has 43 local or regional election integrity task forces, which cover 59 of the state's 95 counties.
EIN Executive Director Marshall Yates told Just the News on Friday about the impact that coalitions are already having on the 2022 elections.
Yates said that the chair of the Fairfax County, Va. Election Integrity Task Force, Christine Brim, was involved in alerting the county to the vulnerabilities of election software company Konnech, with which the county had a contract.
Fairfax County terminated the contract after the arrest of Konnech CEO Eugene Yu on charges of grand theft and embezzlement as the company allegedly stored poll worker data in servers located in the People's Republic of China.
Next year, EIN is focusing on the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which "is a non-profit organization with the sole mission of assisting states to improve the accuracy of America's voter rolls and increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens," according to ERIC's website.
A total of 33 states and Washington, D.C., are part of ERIC, which is a database that states can use to cross-reference voter registration to ensure that someone isn't registered to vote in more than one state.
Yates said that ERIC is focused more on reaching out to eligible but unregistered voters, rather than helping ensure that states' voter rolls are clean.
When reached for comment, ERIC referred to their FAQ page.
Election training, Yates explained, is very localized because individual counties within a single state can administer elections differently. EIN seeks to "encourage local task force leaders to be that source on how to administer elections," he said, adding that the goal is to train everyone "to know the administration of elections and how the process works so that everything runs as smoothly as possible on Election Day."
The focus is on fixing issues before elections occur, because by the time they begin, it's "almost too late to address concerns," Yates explained, noting that many election integrity cases have been thrown out of courts due to standing and jurisdiction.
Election integrity is a movement that has been built despite social media censorship, "ridicule by the news media" and "blackout of coverage," said Yates. People are "drawn to it" despite practically no advertising, he added, citing almost 150,000 engagements across the country.
With more people involved and greater transparency, he believes, public confidence in elections can be restored.