September 24, 2018
The Brennan Center for Justice and The John Brademas Center hosted a discussion with Brennan Center experts and election officials from around the country on contingency planning and steps localities should take to be best prepared.
Russian operatives attacked our elections in 2016. This November, intelligence agencies warn us, they’ll be back. Will we be ready? Nearly two years later, important parts of our election infrastructure remain perilously weak. Congress has stalled efforts to implement critical protections. But there are still steps our election officials can take to ensure that the results of our elections are legitimate and widely perceived to be so.
A light lunch was served.
Brenda Cabrera is the Director of Elections/General Registrar for the City of Fairfax conducting fair, accurate and accessible elections. After 30 years working in both large and small Virginia jurisdictions, Brenda knows that securing elections is viral to voter engagement and confidence. Brenda believes that voting is the backbone of our democratic system and takes great joy in assisting voters in exercising their franchise, particularly first time voters. In just the last three years, the City has held 10 elections, a three-vote margin recount and is about to embark on a pilot for the first pose-election audit in the state of Virginia.
Brenda Cabrera is a REO and CERA graduate.
Edgardo Cortés has worked in elections for more than 15 years, with experience in all facets of the electoral process including campaigns, non-partisan voter registration, federal and state election policy, and local and state election administration.
As the first Virginia Commissioner of Elections, Cortés spearheaded voter registration and election administration modernization efforts in the Commonwealth. Accomplishments during Commissioner Cortés’ tenure included:
· Establishing paperless voter registration at DMV locations
· Fully integrating online DMV transactions with the online voter registration system
· Establishing an online, paperless absentee ballot request system
· Implementing an easier to use voter registration form
· Creating an online assessment of election administration at the local level, making election data more accessible to the public
Cortés served as the Chairman of the Board for the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Standards Board. Cortés was a charter member of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Cortés previously served as General Registrar in Fairfax County, VA and Deputy Director for Policy and Grants Director at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. He has also directed Congressional field campaigns, a national non-partisan voter registration program, and led efforts to implement automatic restoration of voting rights for individuals with prior felony convictions in Virginia.
Cortés holds a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a Master’s degree in political management from the George Washington University. He lives in Springfield, Virginia with his wife and son.
Laura Grace joined the Lawyers’ Committee in 2018 as manager of Election Protection – the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition. Through a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters – including traditionally disenfranchised groups – gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting.
Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Laura worked in international electoral assistance, specializing in nonpartisan citizen election monitoring, international observation and election law reform. For ten years, Ms. Grace managed elections programs at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), advising in-country programs and managing global projects. She worked on-the-ground with nonpartisan citizen organizations in Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Armenia and the Maldives, among others, and aided the development of the Global Network for Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) and the Declaration of Global Principles for Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations. She managed NDI’s international observation programs in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Honduras, Kosovo, Morocco, Nigeria, and the Republic of Georgia.
Laura also organized voter protection and information efforts in US elections, including in 2016 when she assisted Americans living in Myanmar to register and vote from abroad. In 2012, she mobilized pro-bono legal volunteers for voter protection efforts in Virginia.
Ms. Grace received her MA in International Relations at the University of Chicago and her BA in Political Science at the University of San Francisco.
Lawrence Norden is Deputy Director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program. He works on a variety of issues, from money in politics to voting to government dysfunction. During his time at the Brennan Center, he has authored several nationally recognized reports and articles related to law and democracy, including Securing Elections From Foreign Interference (June 2017), Five to Four (January 2016) and America's Voting Machines at Risk (September 2015). His work has been featured in media outlets across the country, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. He has testified before Congress and several state legislatures on numerous occasions.
In 2009, Mr. Norden served as Chair of the Ohio Secretary of State's bipartisan Election Summit and Conference, authoring a report to the State of Ohio for the purpose of improving that state’s election laws. The report was endorsed by the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials and the Columbus Dispatch, which praised him for “following an independent path” in developing the report and recommendations.
Mr. Norden was the Keynote Speaker at the Sixth Annual Votobit International Conference on Electronic Voting (Buenos Aires, 2008), and the 2009 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections (Montreal, 2009). In June 2009, he received the Usability Professional Association's Usability In Civic Life Award for his “pioneering work to improve elections.”
Mr. Norden is the lead author of the book The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World (Academy Chicago Press) and a contributor to the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (Routledge 2007). An expert on New York State government and ethics reform, Mr. Norden has written extensively on the influence of money in New York State politics. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU School of Law.
Noah Praetz is the Director of Elections working under Cook County Clerk David Orr. He is responsible for the overall management of elections in Cook County, Illinois, one of the largest jurisdictions in the country. He believes that free and fair elections remain our core American value and organizing principle. Each year his team serves 1.5 million voters, facilitates democracy for thousands of candidates, and train and support thousands more volunteers to administer democracy.
He started as temporary worker hired to do data entry prior to the 2000 presidential election. In 2007 he became Deputy Director and in 2013 he was appointed Director.
Mr. Praetz is on the executive committee of the Government Coordinating Council representing the local election officials. He is the Treasurer of the International Association of Government Officials. He is also co-chair of the Election Center Cyber Security Committee. He is active in the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders. He has presented on Election Security, Sustainability, Election Day Management, Online Registration, Voter Registration Modernization and other Election Related items.