In Focus This Week
I. In Focus This Week
And we’re off…
2016 election season finally, fully underway, here’s what to watch
By M. Mindy Moretti
Although it may seem like the 2016 election season has been dragging on for years already, things really kick into high gear next week on March 1 with Super Tuesday that features primaries and caucuses in 13 states and territories.
Super Tuesday will include what has been dubbed the “SEC Primary,” — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas — as well as primaries in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Vermont and Virginia and caucuses in Alaska (GOP), America Samoa (DEM), Colorado, and Minnesota.
Following Super Tuesday, there will be contests almost every Tuesday, and some weekends too, through June 14 when the District of Columbia Democratic party holds the very last primary in the country.
Elections officials have spent countless hours and dollars purchasing new equipment, training staff and volunteers and educating the public, but since the last time the American public when to the polls en masse, there have been many changes.
How will the voting public cope? How will elections officials? While we think everything is worth watching on an election day, these are the 10 things we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming months.
And stick with us throughout the day on Tuesdays during primary season. We’ll be bringing you Election Dispatches all day whenever voters are headed to the polls.
New Voting Equipment
Although new voting equipment might be the bigger storyline four years from now, there are multiple jurisdictions that will be using new voting systems for the first time in a presidential election — and for the entire state of Maryland for the first time ever. Four counties in Arkansas are testing out a new voting system, Maryland is moving to an optical-scan system for the first time, many counties are launching e-poll books for the first time on a large scale basis and many elections offices have purchased new ballot counting equipment. Will voters and poll workers struggle with the new equipment at polling places? Will elections staff be able to more quickly report results?
North Carolina is the only jurisdiction rolling out voter ID for the very first time. There are numerous other jurisdictions that have given it a test run in small elections, but this is the first time many voters will be asked to show a photo ID for a presidential election. Advocacy groups and state officials have worked to educate voters about the ID requirements, but it remains to be seen what impact this may have on voters. Will people be turned away? Will there be a lot of provisional ballots?
Turnout is always a “known, unknown”. State elections officials make predictions, but no one every really knows how many voters will turnout on election day. Early voting numbers and absentee ballots requests are up, but do those numbers parlay into increased numbers on election day? Interest is certainly high, but will that high interest remain as the election enters the late spring and it becomes more clear who the nominees may be? Will the Millennials bother to show up?
The heart of the primary season kicks off just as spring storms start making their way across the country. AlreadyLouisianahas had to limit early voting hours because of storms. Will storms impact turnout on primary days? Will storms affect polling places in the days leading up to primary contests? WatchingThe Weather Channelcould be as important for local elections officials and voters as testing election equipment and reviewing sample ballots.
More and more voters are turning to the mailbox as opposed to the ballot box. What impact will vote-by-mail have on election day turnout? How will local elections officials cope with the volume of mailed ballots? Following problems in 2015, will all mail ballots in Ohio be counted?
The popularity of vote centers is on the rise in the U.S. While many voters in states like Indiana are used to vote centers, some voters, especially those who typically only show up for marquee elections, in counties inArkansasandTexaswill be using vote centers for the first time. Will the allocation of vote centers in these counties be able to deal with anticipated turnout? Will there be voter confusion of those looking for their local polling place?
Ghost ships —as defined by our colleague Doug Chapin— are ballots, many printed back in January in order to comply with UOCAVA, that feature the names of candidates who have suspended their campaigns. Elections officials inFloridaare already fielding calls from voters who cast absentee or early ballots of former Gov. Jeb Bush wanting to know if they can cast a new ballot. As more candidates drop out, will this create a problem for elections officials? Will it impact early voting turnout?
Another day, another lawsuit. Currently there are least a dozen lawsuits pending that may or may not impact the primaries and several states and certainly could impact the general election. Will we see more lawsuits as the primary season grinds on into the spring?
How much will any or all of this affect the speed with which ballots are counted and winners declared? Media coverage of elections is already intense, but it always “goes to 11” in a presidential year. Will there be problems with results and if so, why?
Even the most apolitical person is aware of the circus-like atmosphere that has surrounded the 2016 election cycle so far. Will candidate and supporter shenanigans impact voters and local elections officials? Multiple school systems in Virginia have canceled classes on March 1 because of concerns about the impact turnout (and at one point time the GOP loyalty oath) may have on students. Candidates and their supporters have already been crying foul over policies and procedures — although without much follow-through — in the early contests; will this continue during the primary season?
Election News This Week
II. Election News This Week
- Well this doesn’t happen every election! Missoula County, Montana elections officials say that more than 800 people have stepped up to serve as elections judges for the upcoming elections. That’s about 170 more than served in 2014. “It’s a huge election year, we really need to have that support. We also needed to hit that number so that we can ensure we have enough staffing to be able to staff our polling places so we can keep them in everybody’s communities,” Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors told MTPR. “We were able to hit that number and we’re very excited about that.”
- Massachusetts was forced to reprint thousands of ballots this week after local elections officials complained that the ink on ballots was not being properly read by certain voting machines. Localities using the AccuVote system were all expected to get new ballots by the middle of this week, less than a week before Super Tuesday.
- Oops! In other ballot-related news, about 20 voters in Hampton, Virginia received absentee ballots that had already been completed. It seems the vendor included the marked, test ballots with the rest of the ballots and staff in the elections office were unaware since they are working with a new vendor.
- Nearly two months after launching in Oregon, automatic voter registration has added nearly 10,000 voters to the state’s voting rolls.
- Maybe things would be different if they were states. Local media reported problems with both the D.C. Board of Elections and the U.S. Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections this week. In the USVI, members of the St. Thomas-St. John board of elections boycotted the most recent meeting of the joint board because members of the St. Croix delegation had boycotted the previous meeting. The St. Croix delegation had boycotted the previous meeting over travel costs. In D.C. members of the board of elections testified before the city council during oversight hearings that they had no idea where/how millions of HAVA funds were spent because they — the three members of the board — were essentially volunteers and their efforts were not focused on that line of funding.
- Move over Darth, err we mean Chad, there’s a new Jedi in town. The Contra Costa County, California Elections Office is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Star Wars franchise with a new video it has created to recruit poll workers. The video opens with a scroll of words, just like the popular film series and then transitions to a variety of stills of happy volunteers and elections staff working on the front lines of an election at polling places and in the elections office. It appears that Obi-Wan Kenobi might even be pitching in with the ballot counting.
- Personnel News: Greene County, Pennsylvania President Judge Farley Toothman recently reappointed himself to the county’s board of elections. Ryan King has been appointed to the Miami County, Ohio board of elections. Thomas Wilson, a former prosecutor has been appointed as the new director of the Clark County, Ohio board of elections. Bossier Parish Registrar of Voters Janet Burks announced her retirement this week. She’s been on the job since 1971. William Robert Keen is lone candidate for the Sumter County, Florida supervisor of elections position. Gertrude Walker has filed to run for re-election as St. Lucie County, Florida supervisor of elections.
III. Legislative Updates
Alaska: The Anchorage Assembly is considering a $300,000 appropriation to move the city to a vote-by-mail system. Among other things, the funds would cover a staff member to oversee the transition.
Florida: A bipartisan effort to make the secretary of state position elected as opposed to a political appointee was approved 11-0 by the Senate Rules Committee this week.
Hawaii: Legislators are considering a bill that would allow incarcerated felons to cast a ballot. Rep. Kaniela Ing introduced the bill saying that it would go a long way to helping rehabilitate those serving time.
Maryland: Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County) has introduced legislation that would automatically register residents to vote whenever they have an interaction with the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration as well as through social service agencies and the state’s health exchange. Residents would be given 21 days to opt out.
Missouri: A bill expanding the secretary of state’s legal authority in prosecuting cases of voter fraud was advanced by a Senate committee vote on Monday. Senate Bill 786 would allow the Missouri Secretary of State to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged voting fraud. The legislation was proposed by Sen. Will Kraus who is running for secretary of state.
Also in Missouri, while thousands of Americans are busy casting early ballots the House rejected legislation that would have allowed residents of the Show Me State to join the early voting party. Those opposed to the legislation said that it would open up more opportunities for voter fraud.
New Hampshire: The House Elections Committee is considering legislation that would allow incarcerated felons to cast a ballot. If approved, New Hampshire would join Maine and Vermont as the only state that allows felons currently serving time to cast a ballot.
New York: A bill expected to be introduced this spring will give undocumented immigrants the right to vote in local elections.
North Carolina: Legislators voted to move the state’s Congressional primary to June 7 in order to comply with a court ruling that requires the Congressional maps be redrawn.
Oklahoma: Due to a quirk in the law, an ex-felon who may be sentenced to 99-years, for example, but is released early due to time off for good behavior and other reasons, is still prevented from voting even though the terms of their service are complete. Legislation pending would clarify that law.
Utah: Legislation that will allow county clerks to release daily vote totals while tallying vote-by-mail ballots is on its way to the governor’s desk. Local elections officials supported the legislation.
West Virginia: The House of Delegates has approved legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The bill was approved by the House 64-34 largely along party lines, although some Democrats did vote in favor of it and some Republicans were opposed.
IV. Legal Updates
Federal Litigation: The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a brief opposing the actions of U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Brian Newby to require that three states—Alabama, Georgia and Kansas—using the federal voter form to ask for proof-of-citizenship. In the same case, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declined to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the requirement.
Alabama: U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler refused a preliminary injunction request to allow alternate means of identification for voters in the 2016 election cycle. Currently, a person without photo identification can vote if two poll workers sign affidavits saying they recognize and “positively identify” the voter. Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP asked Coogler to expand that provision so people can vote if they provide certain identification documents without photos or information to identify themselves to poll workers. Coogler criticized the request as a backdoor method to do away with the photo identification requirement that took effect in 2014.
Kansas: Judge Tim Lahey denied a motion by Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehmann to dismiss a case brought by statistician Beth Clarkson, but Lahey also denied Clarkson access to the paper tapes from voting machines.
New Hampshire: The Attorney General’s office is investigating allegations that members of Bernie Sanders’ staff registered to vote at Sanders’ New Hampshire campaign headquarters instead of a domicile.
North Carolina: The U.S. Supreme Court failed to intervene in a case requiring the North Carolina Legislature to redraw Congressional district lines.
Virginia: A trial challenging the state’s voter ID law kicked off this week. The Democratic Party of Virginia filed the suit last June, alleging that the law enacted by the Republican majorities in the Virginia House and Senate restricting the type of identification required to vote could make it more difficult for minorities, the disadvantaged and the young to exercise their right to vote. Proponents said the law was needed to curb voter fraud by impersonation.
V. Tech Thursday
National Tech: While this doesn’t mean that Google is going to be running federal, state or local elections any time soon, we thought readers might be interested to know that Google has recently submitted an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that outlines the concept of real-time online voting.
Opinions This Week
VI. Opinions This Week
Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we do not have any op-ed pieces this week. We hope to get them all to you next week. We apologize for the difficulties.
VII. Available Funding/Partnerships/Awards
Call for Proposals for Guest Posts on Youth & Political Engagement
The Monkey Cage, a blog of The Washington Post that uses social science theory and evidence to “make some sense of the circus that is politics” is partnering with CIRCLE to publish 10 articles on youth voting and political engagement. The partnership is funded by a grant from the Democracy Fund.
We are looking for articles on youth and political engagement accessible to a broad audience. We seek contributions from political scientists and scholars in other relevant fields at all stages in their careers. The majority of selected articles will be posted before the end of the 2016 calendar year; however, we are open to proposals that use data collected in 2016 for posting in the first half of 2017.
A proposal should be a short explanation of the topic, the argument, the main evidence, and the audience for the proposed article. In keeping with the mission of The Monkey Cage, the article should focus on the research and evidence and not engage in policy or partisan advocacy — as one might in a traditional op-ed.
We will invite some people who submitted proposals to draft full articles. The Monkey Cage and CIRCLE will make a final decision about publication based on the full drafts, considering these criteria:
- Focus on young people under 30 years of age in the U.S. (required);
- Addresses research question related to elections, public policy, or governance at any level;
- Clear explanation of the quantitative or qualitative data used;
- Evidence of rigorous research/analysis;
- Accessibility, i.e. potential for the content to be effective as journalism;
- Timeliness, i.e. at least some relevance to current public conversations about politics;
- Discussion of possible implications for practice and/or policy; and
- Diversity among the proposals selected to contribute
Proposals are due by midnight ET on March 2, 2016. To propose an article, use this form.
Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award recognizes the exceptional work of individuals who demonstrate unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy. IFES presents the Democracy Award annually to three individuals: a Republican, a Democrat and a member of the international community.
The recipients of the Democracy Award embody the character and spirit of former U.S. Ambassador and IFES Board of Directors Chairman Charles T. Manatt. Manatt served as Chairman of IFES’ Board of Directors from 1993 to 1999 and was a distinct leader, dedicated to spreading democracy around the world and nurturing the next generation of political leaders.
The three Democracy Awards are presented in a single ceremony each year. To nominate someone, click here.
Innovation in American Government Awards
Applications are now being accepted for the $100,000 Innovations in American Government Awards. Offered by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the Innovations Award is the nation’s premier award for the public sector. It recognizes programs that demonstrate creative and effective government at its best.
All units of government — federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial — from all policy areas are eligible to apply for recognition.
This year, the Ash Center is also once again offering the Roy and Lila Ash Innovations Award for Public Engagement in Government, a special Innovations Award that will recognize government-led programs that demonstrate novel and effective approaches to increasing public engagement and participation in the governance of towns, cities, states, and the nation.
The winners of the Innovations in American Government Award and the Roy and Lila Ash Award will each receive a $100,000 grant to support replication and dissemination activities in 2017. Top finalists will also receive monetary grants.
Applications and additional information is available here. Applications are due April 15.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is inviting new members and states considering joining ERIC to apply for grants to help defray the costs of their initial outreach, which includes bulk mail service, provider charges and postage. States interested in applying for mailing grants can do so here. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. EST on Feb. 29, 2016. Instructions for submitting an application and information on the timeline and selection process are included on the application form. States that are awarded grants must join ERIC by May 31, 2016, to receive the funds.
For more information, please contact Keara Castaldo email@example.com.
VIII. Upcoming Events
Job Postings This Week
IX. Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Assistant Registrar, City of Manassas, Virginia— this is a part-time, “as needed” position involving registering voters; answering concerns of citizens; assisting with administration of absentee voting; and preparing, updating, and maintaining voter registration records. requirements include a valid State driver’s license, high school diploma or GED, and proficiency with general office practices, including basic computer skills. Knowledge of laws, ordinances, practices, and procedures related to elections and voter registration is a plus. Applicant must be a registered voter.Work schedule will vary throughout the year and intensify in the weeks preceding elections, and may include some weekend hours. Applicant must be available from 5:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. or later on all election days. Salary: $15.26 per hour. Deadline: Open until filled.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Clerk-Recorder Services Manager, Contra Costa County, California— this management position reports to the assistant clerk-recorder and acts in the place of the assistant clerk-recorder in his/her absence. Position is responsible for assisting the assistant clerk-recorder in planning, organizing, directing and managing the day-to-day activities of the clerk-recorder division; the development, establishment, implementation and evaluation of the county clerk and county recorder policies and procedures according to California Codes, applicable laws, rules, procedures, court cases, regulations and ordinances that affect the county clerk and county recorder. The ideal candidate will possess knowledge and understanding of the entire clerk and recorder processes, appropriate laws, codes and regulations as well as working knowledge and understanding of the interrelationships of each of the sections of the division. Strong management and administrative skills re required.Salary: $6,459-$7,851 monthly.Deadline: March 4.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Customer Relations Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, San Leandro, California— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic, Customer Relations Manager, to be based in our San Leandro, California office! This position will be responsible for supporting customers by partnering with the sales and operations teams to exceed customer needs and requirements; addressing and resolving customer concerns; and, identifying ways to implement preventive measures for continuous process improvement. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Democracy Fellowship, IFES, Washington, D.C.— The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) annually awards two to four Democracy Studies Fellowships to bring outstanding graduate students to Washington, D.C. to engage in democracy development research. Based at IFES’ Center for Applied Research and Learning, fellows have access to IFES experts and conduct independent research with IFES mentors for six to eight weeks. At the end of the program, fellows must complete a paper for presentation to the public or IFES colleagues. The William and Kathy Hybl Fellowship, funded by William Hybl, a former Chair and current member of IFES’ Board of Directors, and wife Kathy awards one grant to bring an outstanding U.S. or international graduate student from a university in the Rocky Mountain region to Washington to conduct research in democracy-building. The Charles and Kathleen Manatt Fellowship, funded by the late U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic and former Chair of IFES’ Board of Directors, Charles Manatt, and his wife Kathleen awards a student from the American Midwest the opportunity to work with IFES experts and conduct research on democracy and governance. IFES’ Election Administration Residency is a professional enrichment program for Humphrey Fellows. This program brings one outstanding Humphrey Fellow to Washington, D.C. each year to learn more about democracy development, election administration and civic participation in the political process. Deadline: March 15.Application: For the complete listing and to apply,click here.
Deputy Registrar, City of Manassas, Virginia— Conducts local, state and federal elections and performs the duties of the General Registrar in his or her absence. Executes and supervises the recruitment, appointment, oaths, official policies, training and payroll of election officials who work the polls. Processes voter registration applications and administers absentee voting both in person and by mail, email, and fax. Creates Voter Photo IDs; programs electronic poll books for precinct use and trains election officials on their operation. Produces reports and statistics as assigned; creates official advertisements for upcoming elections and registration deadlines; prepares City election results for news media and the public. Assists the General Registrar and Electoral Board in ascertaining election results.Salary: $44,574.40-$59,072.Deadline: Open until filled.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Director of Elections, Montgomery County, Alabama— Director of Elections manages and oversees all operations involved in the election process of Montgomery County. This includes Montgomery County primary, primary-run off, general and other required elections such as municipal, county, state, federal and special elections. The essential functions include supervising two or more full-time employees; supervising the financial management of the Elections Center; managing the overall elections process for the county; preparing for elections; monitoring activities prior to, in preparation for and during Election Day; coordinating post-elections activities; serving as liaison with county, state, federal, and private sector groups; serving as the Absentee Elections Manager, preparing and providing voter education, and performing various activities and projects as directed by the Probate Judge. Qualified applicants will possess a master’s of public administration and four years of experience administering and conducting public elections or related political/legal activities. A doctorate of jurisprudence can substitute for two years of the experience administering and conducting public elections or the related political/legal activities experience.Salary: $62,126.Deadline: Open until filled.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Elections Assistant Administrator, Travis County, Texas— assists the Division Manager in strategic planning that establishes goals and objectives for the division. Oversees the daily operational activities of a divisional area. Overseas the day-to-day functions of the division, including personnel, information systems, facilities, resources planning, strategic planning and records management. Assists the Division Manager with planning, coordinating, administering and evaluating operations, staff and functions of the division.Salary: $77,956.53-$101,343.63.Deadline: February 29.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Junior Product Support Specialist,Toronto, Ontario— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an out-going, technology savvy, Junior Product Support Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto office. This position is responsible for supporting installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems products; as well as developing and executing training sessions; and assisting with warehousing and logistics.Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here
Network & Systems Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and detail oriented, Network & Systems Specialist, to be based in our downtown Denver, Colorado office. This role is responsible for assisting with the deployment and troubleshooting of advanced elections hardware and software system configurations; providing support to the logistics associated with procuring elections systems and equipment; performing tests and evaluations of various voting solutions; and providing election support to customers both remotely and/or on-site.Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Product Specialist, Dominion Voting Systems, Chicago area— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and out-going person to join us as a, Product Specialist, in the Chicago, Illinois area. This position is responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems products; developing and delivering of product training curriculum and materials to customers and internal employees; and interfacing directly with customers, co-workers, and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Product Support Specialist, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced and motivated, Product Support Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto office. This position is responsible for supporting installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems products; as well as developing and executing training sessions; and working closely with the Operations and Development Teams on a number of critical projects.Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Program Associate, Governance Program, Democracy Fund— The Democracy Fund seeks to hire a Program Associate to support our Governance Initiative, which is focused on how we can help major governing institutions to work more effectively in the face of increasing polarization. We are looking for candidates who are passionate about making our political system work better and have a strong understanding about how Congress and other governing institutions work. Strong candidates will be excellent writers, have strong research skills, work well with others, have an ability to think systemically, and have a proven track record of being able to get things done in a complex professional environment. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. A major area of responsibility for the Program Associate will be to work with the Program Director of our Governance Initiative in sourcing and evaluating grant opportunities, as well as working with our portfolio of grantee organizations to help them succeed. Among our existing grantees within this initiative are the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Congressional Institute, the No Labels Foundation, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute. Beyond grant making, Program Associates will work with the Democracy Fund team to design and implement strategies to more directly advance our goals through research, convening, and advocacy.Deadline: Open until filled.Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Programming Specialist, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly-driven and detail-oriented, Programming Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto office. This position is responsible for elections design and programming; ensuring elections systems meet all performance criteria, standards and requirements; developing and executing trainings; implementing Dominion Voting System products; and providing technical support to customers, co-workers and election officials.Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Regional Sales Manager, North Carolina / South Carolina — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly-motivated and experienced, Regional Sales Manager, in the North Carolina / South Carolina region. This position will be responsible for long term sales (3-5 years) of the company’s election products and services in a specified geographic region to governmental agencies. This position uses technical, organizational and customer knowledge to influence customers and assist them in applying the products and services to their needs, resulting in revenue generation. In addition, the position provides input and participates in the marketing, market planning and technical development of products and services.Salary: Negotiable base + commission & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
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