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When I serve as a poll worker at my local precinct in Northern Virginia, voters often ask how they can be confident that their vote will be counted. When the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) asked Fors Marsh Group to create an informational video about election security, I thought about these interactions with voters and how appreciative they were to learn about the various steps that were taken at our polling place and elsewhere to ensure that their votes are secure.

The challenge, of course, is that elections are run independently by states and thousands of individual local jurisdictions—meaning that the particular election rules and procedures that are used differ depending on where a voter lives. Our goal when making the election security video was to help the EAC craft answers that were both accurate in any given polling place and applicable to questions from any voter in any jurisdiction across the country.

It was also important to take voters’ concerns seriously and to provide factual information about the steps that are taken to secure elections. It was a fine line to walk—too specific and the content would be irrelevant to many voters, too general and the video would be generic, uninformative, and (worst of all) come off as dismissive of voters’ concerns. To strike this balance, we created a model of the election security process, simplifying the complex and varied procedures that are used across the country into a few clear and broadly applicable categories. Although the specifics might vary depending on where an election is run, the model captured the types of activities that all states and jurisdictions carry out to ensure the security and integrity of elections—from protecting registration data to testing and securing equipment to planning for continuity of operations should something go wrong.    

Yes, election administration is complex, and the many options and variables at each step make it challenging to craft communications that can help all voters understand the election process. However, there is a high degree of consistency across jurisdictions with regard to activities used to secure elections. By focusing on the areas of commonality rather than specific jurisdiction-level differences, this simplified process model provided a framework for talking about election security that was easily tailored to reflect the specific rules and procedures in a particular community.

The reception of the video among the election community was so positive that a few months after its release, the EAC gave us the ability to further customize it for states seeking jurisdiction-specific versions of the Election Security video. As of January 2019, Fors Marsh Group produced versions for Iowa, Connecticut, California, and Idaho.

As any election official (or poll worker!) can tell you, there are many procedures and requirements at every phase of the election process to ensure the security and integrity of elections. However, those diligent efforts are not complete if voters cannot see them—and their impact—for themselves. The Department of Homeland Security recognized the need to inform voters to see the impact of election security with its “last mile” program, which developed customizable cybersecurity posters to help local election officials think through their security procedures and to remind voters of the important role they play to ensure elections are secure.

It was an honor to be a part of the EAC’s Election Security video project, and we are grateful to have contributed to the broader efforts to educate the public on the importance of election security. The elections team at Fors Marsh Group stands ready to assist the election community with its ongoing efforts to ensure that voters in the United States can cast their ballots with confidence.

Dr. Krysha Gregorowicz is an elections expert at Fors Marsh Group. You can request her or another FMG elections expert to speak at your next event on our speaker request form

About the author

Krysha Gregorowicz, Ph.D.

Krysha Gregorowicz, Ph.D.

Dr. Krysha Gregorowicz is a Senior Researcher at Fors Marsh Group (FMG) who has nearly a decade of experience conducting applied social science research and evaluation. As a member of the Public Policy Evaluation team at FMG, Dr. Gregorowicz is the research director on a number of social science research efforts, including a marketing and communication research and evaluation program on behalf of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). In addition, she has overseen a comprehensive assessment of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Voting Information Project, which included a qualitative assessment and a cost–benefit analysis. Dr. Gregorowicz has expertise in experimental design, survey research, and multi-methodological approaches to public policy research and evaluation. She routinely produces research reports and presents results findings at national conferences and to various stakeholders. Dr. Gregorowicz holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

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