As you may be aware, in late 2022, Macoupin County was selected as one of the first ten Centers for Election Excellence in the country. This distinction came from the US Alliance for Election Excellence. We are excited to have been selected and the opportunities it gives us to provide even better experiences for voters and election judges. We know you may have some questions about the program, so we’ve prepared this FAQ page for you.
What is the US Alliance for Election Excellence?
To quote the initial email sent to Macoupin when it launched “the Center for Tech and Civic Life announced it is launching a new program, the nonpartisan U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, that is open to every election department in the nation. The Alliance is bringing together bipartisan election officials to rally around a set of common values and standards, support each other, and keep their skills fresh.”
How did Macoupin County become part of the Alliance?
In the spring of 2022, the Alliance sent out an email invitation to all Election offices in the country launching the program and inviting election offices to apply or get more information. At that time, we expressed interest in the program. Later in the summer, there was a virtual interview with a representative of the Alliance where we discussed goals of our office, what the program would entail, the possibility of a grant, and Macoupin’s enthusiasm in election administration. We were told there were numerous applicants and we would find out later if we were selected. In the fall, we were told we were selected as one of the first ten Centers for Election Excellence out of over 90 finalists. We can’t say for sure why Macoupin was selected as we obviously weren’t part of the selection process. The Alliance website however does say “The 2022 cohort will be selected based on their: Excitement and willingness to participate in the program, Commitment to improve upon practices and procedures aimed at enhancing the voter, poll worker, and staff experiences, and Commitment to being part of a learning cohort, sharing materials among cohort members, and providing input into the future of the program.”
Is the Alliance going to tell you how to run elections?
No. The membership agreement specifically states the Alliance will not offer legal advice. It also specifies that they will never require we implement a specific recommendation or piece of advice. Think of it like redoing a house. You have contractors come in and give you options of what you could do with the space. You make the final decision however and may not take any of their recommendations.
Did Macoupin County receive money for being part of the Alliance?
Yes. While we did not know a grant would be part of being a Center for Election Excellence when we applied, we did receive a grant of $500,000. This was a set amount based off the number of registered voters in our county. The County can spend that money on the following items:
- Key Physical Components: Equipment and materials, facilities, and records, including voting locations, technical facilities, storage facilities, processing facilities, administrative facilities, and voting hardware;
- Key Technological Components: Hardware and software components critical to supporting the election security mission, including computers, servers, databases, and other lT systems and assets used in election administration activities;
- Key Human Components: Personnel with specialized training, certification, knowledge, skills, authorities, or roles whose absence could cause undesirable consequences or hamper the election security mission, including strategic, operational, and temporary/seasonal support positions.
What will Macoupin County spend this money on specifically?
My priority is to spend this money on larger, one-time expenses that would not normally be able to be handled by the County’s budget. Examples include additional space for election events such as early voting or judges training, improved secure storage areas for the county’s voting machines, upgrading our voter registration and election management software for the first time since 1999. We will not use any of the grant money on personnel costs for county employees. There is the possibility of paying vendors for their time such as our local IT vendor for their work on running a new internet connection or paying an individual for scanning of records as examples.
How much will this cost Macoupin taxpayers?
Nothing. The membership agreement does require annual dues, however, Macoupin has a scholarship from the Alliance that will cover the dues at no cost to Macoupin County. These dues give us credits that can be used on projects with partners that cover their hourly rate. This gives us access to resources we normally would have to pay for at no cost to the County. Each project will have a summary prepared at it’s completion that shows what the project was, the goal of the project, and the final results. Anyone interested will be able to see exactly what Macoupin has gotten out of the alliance dues scholarship.
Is this going to benefit one party or candidate?
No. Both the grant agreement and membership agreement say in no uncertain terms this program will not attempt to influence the outcome of any election ever. In twelve years as County Clerk, my goal as County Clerk has always been to be the umpire, calling balls and strikes, regardless of political party or who may be running. That’s led to both sides being upset with our office at different times. But our elections have been run fairly and by the books. That will not change because of this program.
Will my personal data be shared with the Alliance?
None of your confidential personal data will be shared with the Alliance, or anyone else who legally can not have it.
Does Macoupin County have to do anything as part of the Alliance?
We are asked to do one major thing. The Alliance is setting up Values and Standards for Election Excellence. The Standard will “reflect nonpartisan excellence in election administration for local election departments across the country,” according to the Alliance. We will be part of the initial group that forms what these standards and trainings are. I believe it’s important we be part of that conversation since we represent a rural county with a limited budget and small staff size. Election standards like this shouldn’t only focus on larger offices in major urban areas.
How will we know what Macoupin is doing as part of the Alliance?
Our goal in everything in the County Clerk’s office is to be as transparent as possible. For this effort, we have created this web hub that will list a summary of every project completed with an Alliance partner, a ledger showing all expenses as part of the grant, any improvements or recommendations we implement based off of Alliance suggestions, and any other information that would be helpful for voters to know how Macoupin County has benefited from the program.
What if I have a suggestion on how elections could run better in Macoupin?
We’d love to hear it. Our goal is to try and improve how elections run in Macoupin County and your suggestion by be something we haven’t considered. We can’t change election law though so suggestions like get rid of vote by mail or have a longer period of early voting are something we can’t do, since state law sets those requirements.
Amended Grant Agreement
2020 Grant for Center for Tech and Civic Life Summary
Project Summary: Redesign of Permanent Vote by Mail Postcard