Our nation has reached a critical crossroads when it comes to strengthening election security, accessibility, integrity and efficiency. It’s against this backdrop that members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Board of Advisors convene this week in Salt Lake City to examine critical election administration issues.

Supporting election administrators and the voters they serve is at the heart of the commission’s mission, as defined by the Help American Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, watershed legislation that established the EAC. HAVA also established the EAC’s 35-member Board of Advisors that is comprised of representatives from a broad spectrum of national election stakeholder organizations, as well as congressionally appointed election experts. Among them is Weber County’s County Clerk/Auditor, Ricky Hatch. Our goal this week is to ensure that the EAC’s work boosts efforts underway by state and local election officials and makes it easier for all eligible Americans to exercise their right to vote.

One critical role of the EAC is the administration of federal grants to improve elections. Last year, Congress appropriated $380 million in HAVA funds to improve the administration of elections across the nation, the first new appropriations for HAVA funds since fiscal year 2010.

Utah received more than $4.1 million of those funds which the state will invest in upgrading voting systems, replacing its voter registration database, and implementing additional security measures.

Administering federal funds is only part of the support provided by the EAC. Another key component of our work is the EAC’s testing and certification of voting systems. Under HAVA, the EAC develops and maintains Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), requirements against which voting systems can be tested and certified if they meet federal certification standards.

Earlier this year, the EAC unanimously voted to publish the proposed VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines in the Federal Register for a 90-day public comment period that concludes next month. At this week’s meeting, we will examine the VVSG 2.0’s proposed testing requirements and how these standards will shape the next generation of voting systems in the United States.

While many of the discussions this week are about taking the proper steps to secure and prepare for Election Day, sometimes the unexpected happens. As Utah knows, natural disasters such as flash floods, blizzards and tornadoes, as well as man-made disasters, can happen without warning. While the commission is gathered in Utah, we will take a closer look at the challenges these unexpected disasters pose for election officials and voters.

We are also committed to making sure voters know their rights, including those with disabilities or limited English proficiency, Americans living overseas and armed service members serving away from home. The EAC and its Board of Advisors work in lockstep to make sure that these voters are able to vote privately and independently. It is imperative that our work to address election administration challenges protect – not hinder – equal access to the polls for all.

As we prepare for the 2020 presidential election, we encourage voters across Utah to register to vote or verify that their current registration is up to date. Locally, please contact the Salt Lake County Clerk or visit the county’s website for the most accurate election and voter registration information. In addition, on Election Day, please consider volunteering as a poll worker or serving as an observer. While state and local election administrators and the EAC work tirelessly to instill voter confidence and improve elections, nothing boosts confidence in our election system like directly being a part of the process.

The EAC is pleased to bring its Board of Advisors to the Crossroads of the West. We are hopeful that our work here will help election officials and voters navigate the unique crossroads we now face and set the stage for a 2020 President Election rooted in enhanced security, accessibility, and efficiency.

Thomas Hicks, Ben Hovland, Christy McCormick and Donald Palmer are the current commissioners of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent and bipartisan commission established to help America vote. The commission will hold public hearings in Salt Lake City Wednesday and Thursday at the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creeek, 75 South West Temple.