In Focus This Week
Leave no voter behind
Implications of the US’ withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union
By Tammy Patrick, senior advisor, Elections
The Democracy Fund
Since 1874 the majority of nations around the world have been in an established compact under the Universal Postal Union (UPU) to receive and deliver each other’s mail. The UPU is one of the oldest international organizations, monitoring disputes and governing the rates that countries charge for mail receipt and delivery. In October 2018, the current administration announced that the U.S. was initiating the one-year withdrawal process from the UPU due to a dispute over the discounted postal rates charged on Chinese packages shipped to the United States.
In February and April, UPU working committees met, but were ultimately unable to advance the U.S. proposal, and media coverage suggest that the administration is fully preparing for a withdrawal in October. If the U.S. proceeds with its withdrawal from the union, we will need to seek bilateral agreements with countries to maintain the 192 relationships and negotiate individual mail rates—causing an unnecessary drain on taxpayer dollars and government resources. This situation has largely been off of the radar for many Americans, including election administrators and voters.
Impact on Military and Overseas Voters
One of our most vulnerable voting populations are those Americans who find themselves out of the country during election time. Time and distance, access to information and infrastructure, can impede their ability to vote. Indeed, there have been numerous studies – including the oft-cited Pew study “No Time to Vote” – that highlight the challenges voters face. Federal law, under the Uniformed and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), seeks to mitigate the barriers these voters encounter—but it never contemplated that there would be a potential halt to the physical delivery of the mail.
UOCAVA voters have the right to receive their ballot 45 days before Election Day, and they may request to have that ballot sent electronically or by the mail. Connectivity varies globally for our voters as does their proximity to, and frequency of mail delivery—even under the agreements set forth with the UPU. Disruption to the already fragile and tenuous services available to this voting population could have dramatic implications.
majority of UOCAVA voters return their ballot through the physical mail stream. The impact on the 2020 election cycle could be in the millions of voters. We know that in the 2018 Midterm Election there were an estimated 3-5 million UOCAVA voters. According to EAC’s findings:
- 1.3 million service members and 700,000 military spouses are stationed away from their legal voting residence;
- An estimated 3 million voting age citizens living, working, and studying overseas;
- Two thirds of the UOCAVA ballots came from overseas civilians in the 2018 midterm elections;
- State and local elections in November 2019 will be affected, in addition to the 2020 primary and general elections; and
- The average cost to return a ballot for an overseas voter could be as high as $30 or more, depending on the country.
There are conflicting reports on what impact the withdrawal from the UPU will have on private service providers, diplomatic and military mail. Companies like FedEx and UPS are not under the UPU, but leverage the USPS global network to optimize their own coverage so an interruption to that system could have implications.
Diplomatic pouches from U.S. embassies and consulates are delivered under other international agreements and should not be impacted, but service could be impeded based on the degree that embassies and consulates rely upon another nation’s postal service as part of the delivery chain and there may be resulting confusion.
Finally, the Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) – which provides postal services to active military service members – could also be negatively impacted by a withdrawal. Indeed, a report this week in Stars and Stripes stated that APOs and FPOs would be impacted by the UPU withdrawal.
Ultimately, the challenges and disparate treatment faced by voters around the globe would likely be further exacerbated by the variation in timing of services provided at a small, remote village versus major urban centers, forward deployments versus those stationed on bases, those with reliable connectivity versus those without.
What Happens Next and What Can We Do?
We will know in September what the outcome of the negotiations are and if the withdrawal will happen on October 17th. In the meantime, election administrators should gather the following information and sharing it with their legislative and executive branches, stakeholder groups, staff and voters:
Know Your Numbers:
- What are your UOCAVA numbers?
- What countries are your voters in? (This will be important if we will be entering into individual agreements with each of the 192 UPU countries—they won’t all happen at once.)
- Which voters are serviced by MPSA vs. USPS?
Know Your (Voters’) Options:
- Will your electronic delivery mechanism accommodate all your UOCAVA voters?
- What return channels are available if physical mail isn’t? (Check out the recommendations by The Turnout for some practical, some technical things that you can do.)
- Consider your communication channels for this voting population and how you will get them information (first stop, review your website!)
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the United States should not withdraw from the UPU to ensure American voters outside of the country are able to continue receiving and returning their ballots. A withdrawal will have a disparate impact on some voters – like those serving and studying overseas – over others and further complicate the process and likelihood that a ballot will be successfully received, returned and counted.
Election Security Updates
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will leave the administration on August 15. The president said he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to replace him. When he has spoken publicly, Coats has often contradicted the president on whether or not the Russians interfered with the 2016 election.
“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said following a 2018 summit between the president and Russian’s president.
2019 Election Updates
New York: Allison Crossman, one of the two candidates tied for second place in the Watertown mayoral primary has joined a lawsuit that seeks a court ruling on who of the two second place winners should move forward to November. There is no law dictating how ties should be resolved and they city’s attorney has said both 2nd place candidates should move forward but town election officials refuse to certify the results. “So that we can try to get this resolved versus seeing this thrown out and go back to court again,” Crossman told WRVO. “This way we can just try to get it resolved as efficiently as possible.”
In the Queens DA race, State Supreme Court Justice John Ingram will consider opening 28 contested ballots cast in the June 25 Democratic Primary for Queens District Attorney, he ruled in Queens Supreme Court this week. The 28 ballots would not be enough to change the result of the election.
Election News This Week
If a drone can successfully deliver a kidney for transplant from one hospital to another, why can’t it deliver vote tallies? We may soon have the chance to find out as Coconino County, Arizona is considering using drone technology to ferry vote tallies from a polling location at the bottom of the Grand Canyon up to rim. Approximately 130 people are registered to vote on the Havasupai reservation located in the Grand Canyon. In the past election officials have had to hike in and out of the location not only to set up, run and break down the polling location, but also transport tallies. According to ABC news, county recorder Patty Hansen said she’s working with the sheriff’s office and the tribe to see if a drone could carry a memory stick with vote tallies out of the canyon to a trailhead. The stick then would be driven to Flagstaff more than two hours away where county-wide results are tabulated.
Voting Equipment News: With the clock ticking on being legally able to replace voting machines in time for the 2020 election, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to rework the rules that govern what voting machines are allowed in order to allow for hand-marked paper ballots. This is the third time in two months a certification decision on new voting machines has been delayed although this week’s action should move the Board closer to a final decision. The Indiana Election Commission this week approved the state’s first electronic voting system with a voter verifiable paper trail. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced this week that Dominion Voting Systems will be the state’s new elections vendor. According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, the new $90 million system will include an electronic poll books, an ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Device, and an ImageCast Precinct Polling Place Scanner.
Election Office News: The Kings County, California elections office is finally on its own. After years of being a division of the assessor/clerk-recorder’s office, the county board of supervisors voted unanimously to make Kings County Elections a standalone department. According to The Sentinel, after the county put together a working group to evaluate the situation the group recommended to the board that the best option for the public would be a standalone department. Longtime county employee Lupe Villa has been tapped to run the office. “I am delighted to say that the Board has hired a qualified candidate for the Registrar of Voters position,” Rebecca Campbell, county administrative officer told the paper.
It’s county fair time and Fair Vote Minnesota and Ranked Choice Voting Rochester are taking advantage of that by asking participants at the Olmsted County Fair to vote for their favorite fair foods using ranked choice voting. “Ranked choice voting in local elections is our ultimate goal, because it is the most inclusive way to give voters more choice, foster more diversity and ensure winners with broad community support,” Vangie Castro, an RCV organizer told the Post Bulletin. Voters got to rank their votes for funnel cake, cheese curds, mini doughnuts and hot dogs. “No matter whether folks prefer the traditional corn dog, cheese curds or sugar-covered mini donuts, we want fairgoers to experience the simplicity of using a ranked ballot and know the excitement that comes from ensuring their vote counts,” she said. [Ed. Note: Pineapple pizza was apparently not an option].
Personnel News: Bob Cordle has resigned as the chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Jack Moody has been selected to serve on the Robeson County, North Carolina board of elections. Helen Mis has stepped down after more than 50 years as the Republican registrar of voters in Beacon Falls, Connecticut. Congratulations to Cochise County, Arizona Elections Director Lisa Marra who is the new president of the Election Officials of Arizona. Nancy Evans has retired as the Rowan County, North Carolina board of elections director. Congratulations to Tory Munoz, Laramie County, Wyoming deputy clerk for attaining the designation of Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA). Rebecca Duff has retired as the Grimes County, Texas elections administrator and voter registrar after 29 years total in the elections office. Montana State Rep. Forrest Mandeville has thrown his hat in the ring for secretary of state. Therisa Meadows has been appointed Holmes County, Florida supervisor of elections.
Research and Report Summaries
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections last week. The report, Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election Volume 1: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure with Additional Views, documents the committee’s findings on Russian activities and intentions, and the U.S. response, as well as makes recommendations on deterrence, information sharing, and securing election systems. The report includes a partially redacted and anonymized list of observed cybersecurity activity in 21 states and cites federal assessments that all 50 states were targeted.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) released its 2018 post-election report to Congress yesterday. The report includes findings from FVAP’s post-election surveys of active duty military (ADM), Voting Assistance Officers, and state election officials, and assesses FVAP activities supporting the 2018 elections. Findings from FVAP’s surveys include:
- the 2018 voter registration rate for all ADM was 61 percent;
- the 2018 voter participation rate for all ADM was 26 percent;
- ADM who received assistance from a Department of Defense (DoD) resource (FVAP, Unit Voting Assistance Officers, Installation Voter Assistance Offices) were significantly more likely to submit a ballot than if they did not receive DoD assistance;
- three-quarters of 2018 ADM voters voted by absentee ballot, a 7 percent increase from 2014; and
- there was a 180 percent increase in Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) transactions on FVAP.gov in 2018 as compared to 2014.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation released a report on on-campus early voting in Florida this week. The report, On-Campus Early In-Person Voting in Florida in the 2018 General Election, examines usage of 12 on-campus early voting sites in 9 Florida counties that were established as a result of a federal lawsuit. The study finds that:
- nearly 60,000 registered voters in these counties cast early in-person ballots at on-campus locations in the 2018 general elections;
- 56 percent of the total early in-person ballots at these sites were cast by voters aged 18-29 years old, a larger percentage than at other sites; and
- Hispanic and black voters disproportionately cast ballots at these sites.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance released a report on election cybersecurity last month. The study, Cybersecurity in Elections: Models of Interagency Collaboration, examines how relevant agencies in various countries are collaborating to address cybersecurity threats to elections. The report includes case studies from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Mexico, Moldova, The Netherlands, Norway, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.
(Research and Report Summaries are written by Dave Kuennen.)
New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed House Bills 105 and 106. House Bill 105 would have repealed Senate Bill 3 from 2018 requires people who register to vote within 30 days of an election or on Election Day to provide documentation showing they are domiciled in the state. House Bill 106 repealed House Bill 1264 from 2018 which had aligned the formal definitions of residence, inhabitant and domicile. Neither bill was approved with a veto-proof margin.
Ohio: The Yellow Springs council has voted to put an initiative on the next ballot that will allow voters to decide if 16- and 17-year-olds should have the right to vote in local elections. “Part of what we are looking at is the foundation of who contributes to our community, and 16- and 17-year-olds certainly do. They can drive, work in our community and pay taxes. Therefore, they should have a say in the community and definitely how they want their education to go,” Brian Housh, village council president told the Dayton Daily News.
Georgia: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in court proceedings last week, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg appeared reluctant to throw out the state’s voting machines this close to the November election although she did not that Georgian could be “sitting ducks” because of hacking vulnerabilities. She said “it might be extra challenging” to change to hand-marked paper ballots, then go through another transition to the state’s new voting system before the presidential primary election March 24. “These are very difficult issues,” Totenberg said at the close of Friday’s hearing. “I’ll wrestle with them the best that I can, but these are not simple issues.”
Massachusetts: The Town of Amherst is considering lowering the voting age to 16, but a recent legal opinion may slow that process. Town Manager Paul Bockelman solicited the opinion of Lauren Goldberg of KP Law. “In my opinion, without a state constitutional amendment, no person under the age of 18 or who is not a citizen will be eligible to vote for the election of governor, lieutenant governor, senators or representatives,” Goldberg wrote.
New Hampshire: U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante refused to dismiss a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of two Dartmouth students who argue that the state’s law distinguishing between domicile and residency for voting purposes burdens their right to vote. “I’m not saying this is a particularly strong challenge,” Laplante said according to the Concord Monitor. “But the plaintiffs have standing.”
New York: Civil rights organizations have filed sued against the Rensselaer County elections commission after the commission announced plans to turn voter data over to ICE. According to the Huffington Post, The lawsuit argues that Rensselaer County is discouraging lawful voters from registering to vote at the DMV. Sharing data with ICE, the suit says, will intimidate voters, particularly families with mixed immigration status. That kind of voter intimidation, the suit says, violates the Voting Rights Act.
North Carolina: Lanisha Bratcher-Bain, Richard Daniels Jr., Tullous Burrow, and Treqwon Covington have each been charged with voting illegally in the 2016 election. According local media reports, the four were all serving an active felony sentence or felony probation when they allegedly cast ballots in 2016.
Also in North Carolina, McCrae Dowless and six others were indicted on allegations of election fraud stemming from the 2018 general election. According to WBTV, The indictment alleges that Dowless “with deceit and intent to defraud, obstruct(ed) public and legal justice by submitting or causing to be submitted by mail absentee ballots and container-return envelopes for those ballots to the Bladen County Board of Elections in such a manner so as to make it appear that those ballots had been voted.
A Swain County Superior Court judge has ruled that the county must fund the retirement benefits for county Elections Director Joan Weeks. At issue was whether or not weeks was a full-time employee and entitled to the benefits.
North Dakota: The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals this week ruled that the North Dakota law requiring voter ID is constitutional. The ruling vacates a lower court order that imposed a statewide injunction on the rule after Native American voters argued that the ID law caused voter suppression. According to Court House News Service, Despite showing that one of the plaintiffs could have been affected by the ID law, the Eighth Circuit found that plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence that the residential street requirement placed a substantial burden on most North Dakota voters. “Even assuming that some communities do not have residential street addresses, that fact does not justify a statewide injunction that prevents the Secretary from requiring a form of identification with a residential street address from the vast majority of residents who have them,” the opinion states.
Utah: The San Juan County commission vote unanimously not to pursue further appeals in a voting rights case that on July 16 the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s finding that county had violated the Voting Rights Act when it drew its commission districts along racial lines.
West Virginia: University of Chicago Associate Professor Anthony Fowler studied West Virginia’s 2018 pilot of using block chain technology for military and overseas voters and found that the ability to vote with a mobile device increased turnout by 3 to 5 percentage points. “When West Virginia registered voters living abroad had the opportunity to vote online, they were six to nine percentage points more likely to request a ballot, mobile or otherwise, and three to five percentage points more likely to actually cast a ballot,” said Fowler, whose research uses econometric methods to study elections and political representation.
Opinions This Week
Alabama: Voter ID
Georgia: Ex-felon voting rights
Indiana: Voting equipment
Iowa: Election security
Maryland: Special elections
Minnesota: Election security
Missouri: League of Women Voters
Montana: Secretary of state
Ohio: Nonpartisan elections
South Carolina: Election security
Texas: Vote centers
Utah: San Juan County
West Virginia: List maintenance
National Conference of State Legislatures: NCSL’s Legislative Summit will feature numerous elections-related sessions include several about redistricting, voter registration, infrastructure and the Census. And if that wasn’t enough, Dolly Parton will be one of the featured keynote speakers. When: August 5-8. Where: Nashville.
NSGIC Elections GeoSummit: The Elections GeoSummit brings together the nation’s leaders in elections management and geographic information systems (GIS) to share leading-edge findings and craft best practices to enhance election systems through 2020 and beyond. The event represents the culmination of NSGIC’s two-year Geo-Enabled Elections project, and features agenda highlights including learnings and best practices from states working to integrate GIS in Elections. Wisconsin Election Administrator Meagan Wolfe will be the keynote speaker. When: August 14. Where: Washington, DC.
Election Center 35th Annual National Conference: This year’s Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we head into the final stretch of the 2019 Election year. We will share substantive elections issues including crucial critical infrastructure information, new election initiatives and tons of practical and meaningful election administration tools and resources including the newest innovations and ideas to help election officials as the 2020 presidential year quickly approaches. When: Aug. 17-24. Where: Orlando.
CTCL Post-Election Audits Online Series: The Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) is launching a 3-course online series on Post-Election Audits, in partnership with Jennifer Morrell and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Whether you conduct traditional audits, risk-limiting audits, or none at all, this curriculum will empower you to conduct more rigorous post-election audits and boost public trust. Each 90 minute course costs $50 per attendee. Where: Online. When. Aug. 20-27.
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 to email@example.com. 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.
Bilingual Resources and Marketing Specialist, Gwinnett County, Georgia — Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections is responsible for planning and organizing all election voter-related activities and assist Gwinnett’s cities and special districts with election preparations. The division is comprised of staff that are proud to be part of a team that works together to assure that every vote counts. This position will be responsible for marketing and outreach for our Elections Division. The incumbent will create marketing material, work with community partners/organizations and conduct outreach related to Gwinnett County’s Election Division and the Bilingual Election Law (Sec. 203 of the Voting Rights Act). The incumbent must be proficient in oral, written and reading comprehension of the Spanish language. The primary responsibility for this position will be to educate and inform various community organizations, registered and prospective voters about election processes in both English and Spanish. The incumbent will also be required to set up and take down tables, display boards and various marketing materials for public events. Salary: $42,1620 $48,486. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Support Consultant, Hart InterCivic— The Customer Support Consultant is responsible for providing application and hardware support to Hart InterCivic customers via telephone and email for all Hart InterCivic products. The Support Consultant is also responsible for monitoring all requests to ensure efficient, effective resolution. The successful CSC will work directly with customers and other staff members. The position is responsible for responding to customer contacts, dealing with issues in a professional manner, providing technical direction to customers in a manner they can understand and being a customer advocate. The CSC must have outstanding written and verbal communication skills. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Director, Ada County, Idaho— The Elections Director collaborates with the Clerk of the District and Chief Deputy to plan, oversee, and administer elections for over 200,000 registered voters across 150 precincts. The Elections Director is responsible for ensuring all of the necessary resources are acquired and in place, poll workers are well prepared, and that Ada County’s elections are conducted in an accurate, efficient, and transparent manner that leaves Ada County voters with the upmost confidence in the elections process.The Elections Director is expected to exercise independent judgment and discretion, under the general direction of the Clerk of the District Court & Chief Deputy, to manage the administration of all federal, state, county and local district elections. The Director is responsible for planning, designing, and carrying out programs, projects, studies or other work related to election administration within Ada County. Salary: $77,500-$87,500 annually. Deadline: August 19th, 2019. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Program Associate, Elections Policy, The Democracy Fund — Democracy Fund’s Elections team is seeking a Program Associate to promote and advocate for national issues in voting policy, particularly election law and election cybersecurity policy. This role presents a unique opportunity to blend philanthropy, policy development, and legislative advocacy. The successful candidate will be passionate about educating leaders, officials, and the public on the urgent need for election reform and the danger that attacks on the electoral process pose to our democracy. he Program Associate will focus on increasing the public’s trust in elections, improving election security, advancing policies and practices that make elections more accessible, and reducing attempts to change election law for partisan benefit. Day-to-day tasks will include grantmaking, policy work, advocacy, coalition and relationship building, thought leadership, and developing innovative approaches to reduce real or perceived threats to American elections. We are looking for candidates who are determined to help our democracy work better. Strong candidates will possess several years of experience working on voting or election policy and leading advocacy or legislative policy change. The successful candidate will have a track record of working well with others to get things done in a complex, fast-paced environment and will thrive as part of a small, highly collaborative team. The Program Associate will report to the Associate Director, Elections. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Program Director, National Voter Registration Day — We are seeking a Program Director to organize and rally key national partners around one of the most prominent and important civic holidays in the nation – National Voter Registration Day – held on the fourth Tuesday of every September. In 2020, we aim to break past years’ records and register over one million voters with the help of over 50 major national partners and 4,500 field partners. To do this we require a creative and entrepreneurial Program Director with sincere people skills and a passion for civic engagement and democracy. Salary: $68,000 and $76,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic— Project Managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the Project Manager directs activity, solves problems, and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency, and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Manager, Hart InterCivic — as Product Manager, you will join a team that is charged with product planning, design, and execution throughout the lifecycle of Hart’s products, in support of the company’s overall strategy and goals. This includes: gathering, validating, and prioritizing internal and external customer needs; documenting and communicating product and technical requirements; gathering market and competitive intelligence; supporting the certification, sales, and marketing teams. The Product Manager must possess a unique blend of business and technical savvy – with experience in elections technology or other government-oriented products preferred. To succeed in this role, the ideal candidate must spend time in the market to understand its unique attributes; demonstrate competence with specialized hardware and software; and find innovative solutions for the broader market. The Product Manager plays a key role in helping others to understand the product positioning, key benefits, and target customer, as well as providing advanced subject matter expertise in using the company’s products. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Scientist, MIT Election Data and Science Lab— MEDSL seeks a research scientist to oversee the data science workflow of the lab’s election-related data collection, processing, and dissemination efforts. MEDSL aims to improve the democratic experience for all U.S. voters by applying scientific principles to how elections are studied and administered. Responsibilities include assisting the director with designing and implementing research projects; gathering and analyzing data, designing research protocols, and documenting results; managing data science and quality control for the 2018 release of the Elections Performance Index (EPI); acquiring data from government sources and designing protocols to update indicators not provided by government sources; assisting with redistricting data collection/dissemination efforts; working with web designers to update EPI website and creating original content for MEDSL website; onboarding and monitoring the work of students/research support associates; tracking scholarship in the field of election science; and performing other data science/administrative/reporting duties as assigned. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here
Software Sales Specialist, VOTEC— VOTEC’s Sales Specialist is responsible for creating news sales with prospects and existing clients in targeted areas in the US. We are looking for an election professional comfortable using insight and consultative selling techniques to create interest that offers unique solutions on their operations, which link back to VOTEC’s solutions. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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