For-profit

The Elections Group

Type:

Election Consultancy

Formation:

2020

Co-Founders:

Jennifer Morrell

Noah Praetz

The Elections Group is a consulting organization that works with election offices and other local, state, and federal entities. [1] It was founded in 2020 by former election officials Jennifer Morrell and Noah Praetz to provide “expertise and materials,” such as research reports explaining how to use new COVID-era voting equipment, to election offices ahead of the 2020 presidential election. [2] The group not only provides advice and resources but “direct management support” to election officials. [3]

According to its website, the group was formed in response to many election officials calling for help due to COVID-19 mandates permitting remote voting. Morrell and Praetz established partnerships with “voting experts” from several nonprofits and academic institutions, such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, to help in its consultations. [4]

Activity

The Elections Group offers “guidance” on mail-in and absentee ballot processing, implementing ballot drop boxes, signature verification and curing process, adapting polling places to new health and safety policies, ballot reconciliation, post-election audits, and “communication strategies.” In addition to consultation provided by the group’s staff and its network of “experts,” it also advertises its ability to provide “guidance documents,” give advice on how election offices can “leverage existing technological solutions and expertise,” and offers direct mentorship and “management support” over the phone by its partnered experts. [5]

On August 19, 2021, the Georgia Star News reported that the Fulton County Election Commission in Georgia was considering a $600,000 contract under which the Elections Group would review and assess Fulton County’s registration and election operations. Several individuals urged the commissioners to reject the contract. As of August 18, the commissioners had not approved or rejected the contract. [6]

Superheroes Project

The Superheroes Project (named in honor of election administrators, whom the Elections Group deemed “superheroes”) was a 2020 initiative of the Elections Group which coordinated with consultants and experienced election officials to facilitate support for state and local election offices dealing with mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The advisors distributed materials, helped edit documents and statements, and gave advice to election officials in various states. The Elections Group does not state whether it disbanded the program after the 2020 election. [7]

Partners

The Elections Group and its Superheroes Project is officially partnered with several nonprofits and academic institutions to garner “solutions” for election officials. These groups include the Center for Tech and Civic Life, Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, National Vote at Home Institute, Center for Civic Design, URI Votes, and U.S. Digital Response. The Elections Group is actively seeking to acquire new partners and encourages representatives of other groups to contact them. [8]

Resources

The Elections Group and its partners offer guidance materials in the form of downloadable PDF documents. They contain instructions and recommendations on how the group and its partners believe elections should be run and encourage local election offices to abide by its standards and precautions, such as telling law enforcement to be on standby in case political extremists try to disrupt the voting process. [9]

In one document, entitled “Running Elections Without Fear: Ensuring Physical Safety for Election Personnel,” the introduction claims that American democracy faced a “new challenge” in the 2020 presidential election. According to them, “online forums” that were “spurred by foreign adversaries and even politicians” demonized election officials “and a few honest, correctable errors” to harass election workers. It warns election officials about extremists’ harmful intentions and documents cases of digital and physical altercations between these “partisans” and election officials. As one solution, the Elections Group suggests local election offices to raise awareness among its staff about the “cyber-attacks in the 2016 election.” It also suggests helping “law enforcement agencies to begin to understand” the importance of “election security.” Virtually every instance of extremist “confrontation” documented in the report relates to the actions of supporters of former president Donald Trump (R), including peaceful protests concerning lack of transparency during vote counts. [10]

Another document, “Defending Democracy: Protecting Election Officials from Digital Threats,” details threats and attacks to the election system the group identified in 2020. It includes subchapters such as “Misinformation Breeds Online Discontent,” “Amplifiers Recruit an Online Mob,” and “Threats Target Real People.” The document warned readers before the 2020 election that “Foreign adversaries, domestic troublemakers, or politicians all may fan the flames of discord.” The final chapter of the document is entitled “Tackling Online Violence Before It Moves Offline,” implying that election workers might be physically assaulted. [11]

Its document “Knowing It’s Right, Parts 1-4” aims to provide election officials with arguments to defend and justify the notion of election “audits” conducted by consulting organizations like the Elections Group to skeptical and inquiring citizens. [12]

The Elections Group advocated election officials take precautions ahead of the 2020 election in “Election Security in a Time of Disturbance.” In encouraged officials to plan ahead with law enforcement to prevent situations where election officials might be confronted by extremists. It noted that a polling station on election day might be an “unfamiliar context” for law enforcement, so the document suggested that election offices hold training exercises for police officers that would rehearse scenarios such as active shooters attacking polling stations. [13]

Other documents available on its website cover topics like “Ballot Drop Box Security,” “Inbound Mail Ballot Processing,” “Signature Verification,” “Running a Safe Election in a Pandemic,” and “Managing Expectations for Slower Election Results in 2020.” [14]

Leadership

The Elections Group was founded in early 2020 by Jennifer Morrell and Noah Praetz.

Jennifer Morrell is a former local election official who has been involved in multiple election audits in the past. She is a consultant for Democracy Fund and leads its Election Validation Project, which aims to establish new standards for what it decides should count as a transparent election and seeks to enforce them through auditing and testing election offices. Previously, she was an election official in Utah and deputy of elections in Arapahoe County, Colorado. During her time in Colorado, Morrell employed the state’s first “risk-limiting audit” (RLA) to investigate and purportedly improve its election system. [15]

Morrell went on to oversee many RLA programs in multiple states and produced a report on election audits intended as distributable reading material for election officials entitled “Knowing Its Right.” Morrell serves as an elections expert for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a federal agency founded in November 2018. She is a graduate of the Election Center’s Certified Elections Registration Administrator, a professional education program run by the National Association of Election Officials. [16] [17]

Noah Praetz is a consultant for election offices at the local, state and federal levels. He was the operator of elections in Cook County, Illinois. After the 2016 presidential election and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, Praetz wrote a white paper on how the government could secure election integrity and prevent foreign interference. Following the declaration made by the Department of Homeland Security that elections are “Critical Infrastructure,” Praetz was chosen to be the representative of local election officials and co-chair of elections communities at Government Coordinating Council (GCC), an affiliate of CISA. [18]

Praetz has testified before House and Senate committees that the vulnerability of local election offices is underestimated and should be national security concern. In 2019, Praetz left his position with Cook County. Praetz is an adjunct law professor at DePaul University College of Law. [19]

References

  1. “Home.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/index.html. ^
  2. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
  3. [1] “Home.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/index.html. ^
  4. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
  5. “How We Help.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/how-we-help.html. ^
  6. Butler, Chris. “Fulton County Voters Urge County Commission Not to Approve Contract with Group Allegedly Tied to Mark Zuckerberg.” Georgia Star News. August 19, 2021. https://georgiastarnews.com/2021/08/19/fulton-county-voters-urge-county-commission-not-to-approve-contract-with-group-allegedly-tied-to-mark-zuckerberg/. ^
  7. “Superheroes Project.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/superheroes-project.html. ^
  8. “Partners.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/partners.html. ^
  9. “How We Help.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/how-we-help.html. ^
  10. “Running Elections Without Fear.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/assets/Running%20Elections%20Without%20Fear.pdf. ^
  11. “Defending Democracy: Protecting Election Officials from Digital Threats.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://fe905b4f-785c-4a89-a73e-5999b9031591.filesusr.com/ugd/346ddd_9b3b967e26964ccc9ddcb2fbadd216c6.pdf. ^
  12. Patrick, Tammy. “Knowing It’s Right: Limiting the Risk of Certifying Elections.” Democracy Fund, February 18, 2021. https://democracyfund.org/idea/knowing-its-right-limiting-the-risk-of-certifying-elections/. ^
  13. “Election Security In a Time of Disturbance.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/assets/Election%20Security%20in%20a%20Time%20of%20Disturbance.pdf. ^
  14. “How We Help.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/how-we-help.html. ^
  15. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
  16. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
  17. “Election Center.” Election Center – Certified Elections Registration Administrator – National Association of Election Officials. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://www.electioncenter.org/certified-elections-registration-administrator.html. ^
  18. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
  19. “Leadership Team.” The Elections Group. Accessed November 20, 2021. https://electionsgroup.com/leadership-team.html. ^
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