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Summary List Placement

The ask seemed non-controversial at a time when the nation, pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, was desperate for volunteers to staff polling stations for the 2020 elections.

“I formally request that authority over the HelpAmericaVote.gov domain name be delegated to the EAC,” Election Assistance Commission Executive Director Mona Harrington wrote last July 15 to a Government Services Administration contractor that administers US government websites that end in “.gov.”

But the request instead triggered a tug-of-war between two divisions of the federal government — one bipartisan and statutorily independent, the other part of the Trump White House — over a critical voting matter, according to a series of emails exclusively obtained by Insider. 

The EAC, a federal agency tasked with helping Americans vote, expected approval within a day or two. 

Two days passed. Then a week. No response. 

EAC officials planned to use HelpAmericaVote.gov to recruit and coordinate with an army of new poll workers amid a pandemic that had already sidelined tens of thousands of elderly election volunteers unable or unwilling to staff in-person voting sites. 

A shrinking pool of poll workers had forced many cities and towns to cut or consolidate in-person polling sites during presidential primary contests, putting untold numbers of voters at risk of disenfranchisement. Some urban areas with large populations of Black or Latino voters — from Maryland to Milwaukee and in areas such as Maricopa County, Arizona — found themselves at particular risk.

By late July, with no word back on their request, EAC officials were growing nervous, fretting that further delay would torpedo the agency’s plan for a splashy, nationwide launch of a late-summer poll worker recruitment campaign. 

“This is an urgent request … time is of the essence as our press release and other relevant materials are supposed to go out in the next day or so,” Harrington wrote in a July 27 email to officials at the GSA and White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which had recently named itself the final arbiter of approving new .gov websites.

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On July 31, OMB broke its silence. 

“The request for HELPAMERICAVOTE.GOV has been denied by OMB,” wrote Justin Grimes, an official in OMB’s Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer. “The request was denied because it did not justify the creation of a stand-alone site.”

 

The requests and rejection also came as President Donald Trump’s false claims that the US elections were “rigged” and fraudulent were reaching a crescendo.   

‘We desperately need the domain’

Upon rejecting the EAC’s request, OMB on July 31 told the EAC that it could resubmit its request and “provide a new justification” for obtaining the HelpAmericaVote.gov domain. The EAC could also simply give up and publish poll worker recruitment information to its own website using the unmemorable address of www.eac.gov/help-america-vote. 

EAC officials immediately resubmitted their HelpAmericaVote.gov request. Grimes predicted the review would take from 1 to 3 days.  

Then they waited. Again.

“Do you have an update on this request?” Harrington wrote to Grimes on August 4 in the first of several emails the officials traded during the …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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