I. In Focus This Week
End of HAVA Sec. 261 grants program comes a bit sooner than planned
Reporting issues forces HHS to change, then extends project period for FY11
By M. Mindy Moretti
Earlier this year, just as state and local elections officials were dotting all their Is and crossing all their Ts for the 2016 election season, states received some unwelcome news from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant project period for grants available through Sec. 261 of the Help America Vote Act was set to end June 30 instead of September 30 as it had in the early years of the grant program. Although states have had five years to use and report on these funds, the changed deadline was cause for concern.
For states, the problem is twofold. Not only was the deadline moving up by several months, there were also issues with ACL’s reporting system that began in 2015 which caused as many as 22 states to have their grant funds — about $3 million — be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Once those funds go back to Treasury, they are inaccessible by the grantee and grantor.
“… For every grant year preceding 2010, states were able to expend, draw down, receive, report and reconcile funds until September 30 of the federal fiscal year, and we had every reason to think that would be true for FFY 2010 [Sept. 30, 2015 deadline], especially because we received an email reminder in mid-September that 2010 funds needed to be expended and drawn down by the end of September,” said Emily Dean, director of communications for the Montana secretary of state’s office.
HAVA authorizes the states to use these grants to make voting accessible for voters living with disabilities. States have used the funds for a variety of expenditures including to ensure all polling places are ADA complaint, providing training for voters living with disabilities on the use of the assistive ballot marking devices so they can be comfortable when appearing in the polling location to vote, and providing educational materials that are made available on our website to assist these voters in knowing how they can gain access to voting.
In North Dakota, the state has had to spend FY11 funds — $44,000 — to cover costs for FY10 expenditures that were not processed by ACL’s new reporting system.
“Because of this glitch in the HHS reporting utility, we were forced to attribute the legitimate expenditures made last summer against the FY 2011 grant funds instead of the FY 2010 as we should have been able to and as we had with other HHS grants in the previous years,” explained Jim Silrum, deputy secretary of state of North Dakota.
In his position as deputy secretary of state Silrum has dealt with the Sec. 261 grants since they were first available in 2003 and said 2015 was the first year there was ever a problem.
“I have been the Deputy Secretary since a time prior to receiving our first HHS grant award in 2003; therefore, I can tell you with certainty that the system HHS has the states use for reporting on the expenditure of our grants changed in such a way last year that it did not allow us to report our expenditures in the last quarter of the 2015 federal fiscal year (July, August, and September of 2015) against the 2010 grant funding, which was not to expire until after the last day in September,” Silrum said.
According to Christine Phillips, director of external affairs for ACL, it’s because of these issues states were having with ACL’s reporting system that the change to the grant project period was put in place.
“For a variety of reasons, some states have had issues accessing funds near the end of the project period. Consequently, funds to states intended to use support the mission of the program have been returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury,” Phillips explained. “To prevent that problem, we moved the project end date to June 30. This way, if there are issues, we have the time to address them before the funds expire and are beyond our access.”
Phillips added ACL has been working with states for several years to encourage them to spend their remaining funds.
“Although the grant funding didn’t expire for five years, the money was really intended to be used in the year it was awarded. The funds that are expiring this year were awarded in 2011, so states have had nearly five years to use the funds.”
States were notified in April of 2016. The entire North Dakota Congressional delegation signed a letter requesting HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell answer some questions and correct the situation for the 22 states, including North Dakota, that had their remaining 2010 HHS grant funds de-obligated back to the US Treasury one quarter of the final year of the grant too early.
“NASS has been working on this issue since April 2016, when we first heard about a problem with 2010 and 2011 HHS funds from state members,” explained Leslie Reynolds, executive director of the National Association of Secretaries of State. “Despite numerous phone calls and emails with HHS, we still don’t know what happened with the agency’s Payment Management System.”
Reynolds said after countless emails and phone calls back and for with ACL in exasperation, she began advising NASS members to speak directly with ACL chief of staff Rick Nicholls.
“HHS continues to cryptically reference ‘systems issues’ in its communications with us. The ‘issues’ occurred at the end of FY2015, but HHS didn’t begin communicating formally with states about the situation until February/March 2016,” Reynolds said. “Obviously each situation for each state is a bit different, depending on when they drew down 2010 funds.”
On May 31, EAC drafted a letter to ACL seeking clarification on why the the 2010 funds weren’t processed and why the 2011 project period had been moved up by three months. In the letter, EAC Chairman Thomas Hicks sought clarification regarding the actual awarding and expiration timetable of the awards and correspondence to award recipients stipulating for the closing of awards before the expiration of the funds.
On June 10, ACL announced that they would allow states to apply for an extension for the 2011 funds with the next closing date being August 31, 2016. The deadline to apply for the extension was this week. According to Phillips, 10 states applied for extensions and all 10 received the extension.
“I believe that it is very important that states have access to the grants to help voters with disabilities participate in the democratic process,” Hicks said. “I am glad that the EAC was able to facilitate the conversation between the States and HHS, which administers these particular grants.”
Peggy Reeves, assistant secretary of state for elections, legislative and intergovernmental affairs in Connecticut said the state is still hoping to receive the Sec. 261 funds. They are one of the 10 states to request and receive the extension.
“Sec. 261 funds can be an incredible benefit to the state and are a valuable resource,” said Reeves. “However, it is no secret that the reporting requirements could be clearer and less burdensome. This has made accessing funds in the past quite difficult. Nevertheless, we do hope to work with them in the future.”
Silrum isn’t too sure about the extension and what, if anything can be done about the funds that were not appropriated in 2015 due to the “technical glitch.”
“As of this point, we are at a standstill on this matter in North Dakota. We have spent all of our remaining HHS grant money because we had valuable expenditures to make and put in place and we didn’t want to experience this reporting issue again,” Sirum said. “I want to make sure that one thing is abundantly clear – we are not asking for the FY 2010 or FY 2011 funding to be re-appropriated by Congress. We are just asking for the opportunity to correctly report on our expenditures to the FY 2010 grant and then spend what would then be remaining of our FY 2011 funding prior to the end of its grant period, which will be September 30, 2016.
II. Editor’s Note
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III. Election News This Week
- The day before the 52nd anniversary of the killing of three civil rights workers who were registering voters in Neshoba County, the Mississippi Attorney General announced that the case was closed—unsolved. “There’s nothing else that we can do,” Mississippi Atty. Gen. Jim Hood announced at a news conference Monday. “All’s been done unless some other witness comes forward.”
- According to a survey by the American Civil Liberties Union, only about half of Nebraska’s 93 counties are properly restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Under state law, a convicted felon may register to vote two years after completing all the terms of their service, including parole and probation. The ACLU had researchers contact each county and ask if ex-felons may register to vote and 47 of the 93 counties did not provide the correct information, although some did follow up later with the correct information. Secretary of State John Gale took issue with the survey and how it was conducted although he did his office would work harder to publicize the state law.
- We love this paper-saving idea! In an effort to save paper and some money, the Denver elections team combined their voting instructions and ballot secrecy sleeves. Instead of sending a separate secrecy sleeve with mail-in ballots, voters were instructed to fold their instruction sheets in half and put their voted ballot in there before placing it in the return envelope. While it did cause a bit of confusion for some voters who didn’t completely read the instruction sheet, it did save Denver about 230,000 sheets of paper and more than $9,000.
- Speaking of vote-by-mail, Utah, which has often struggled with voter turnout is looking at a possible record-breaking primary election thanks in part to 20 counties using the new vote-by-mail option. According to KUTV, in Salt Lake County ballots already accounted for have eclipsed the overall totals of the last primary. “For a primary turnout at this point in time that is excellent,” said Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County Clerk.
- No really, every vote does matter! A recent election for mayor in Hannaford, North Dakota initially seemed to end in a tie with each candidate getting 28 votes, but during a canvass of the votes an additional mail-in ballot with the appropriate postmark was found giving the seat to Deb Dahl. But here’s the twist, her opponent Russell Flifet, who did not seek re-election for council in order to run for mayor won his old seat back through write-ins.
- Although our focus is on U.S. elections, it would be hard to get through this week’s newsletter without somehow mentioning the big Brexit vote in England and we’ve found the perfect way! Apparently #DogsAtPollingStations is a thing during British elections and Thursday’s vote was no different. Forget the ballot selfies America, this is something we can all get behind!
- Personnel News: Tom Sawyer, head of the Fayette County, Georgia elections and voter registration department has been terminated for performance-related issues. Virginia Anders of Glen Ferris, West Virginia was recently honored for voting in every election for 66 years. Tom Dunkerton, Republican registrar of voters in Brookfield, Connecticut has resigned. Richard R. DuBois has been elected the new chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Elections. April Dufoe has retired as the Kennebunkport, Maine town clerk after 16 years on the job.
IV. Legislative Updates
Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R) has vetoed legislation that would have required those requesting an extension of polling hours to pay for the extension. According to the Dayton Daily News, in his veto message, Kasich said that while Senate Bill 296 included some things that made sense, the provision to require a bond was not acceptable. This is only the second bill that Kasich has vetoed.
V. Legal Updates
California: According to the San Diego Union Tribune, a consumer activist is suing the county registrar of voters, claiming ballot certification in the recent primary election was mishandled because the office improperly reviewed mail-in and provisional ballots.
Kansas: The Associated Press has sued Johnson County alleging that it has wrongly withheld public records involving alleged fiscal misconduct by the county’s former elections chief.
North Carolina: A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against changes to North Carolina’s elections laws including voter ID. According to The Associated Press, one judge says the timing of the Republicans’ actions “looks pretty bad.” Another asked pointed questions about why the GOP excluded public assistance IDs from the list of acceptable forms of identification.
North Dakota: Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who are suing the state over its voter ID law, have asked a federal judge to temporarily block enforcement of the law. According to The Bismarck Tribune, the tribe says an injunction would give poll workers the ability to let people vote based on their knowledge of someone’s voting eligibility and would allow people to vote by signing an affidavit saying they are qualified to do so.
VI. Tech Thursday
Kentucky: This week Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes announced that GoVoteKy, the state’s online voter registration portal had surpassed 100,000 users either registering for the first time or updating their existing information. The site launched about three months. According to Grimes, nearly 8,000 first-time voters used the site to register including 2,300 18-year-olds.
VII. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Access to voting
Alaska: PFD voter registration
Arizona: Election laws
Colorado: Primary apathy
District of Columbia: Voter rolls
Iowa: Instant runoff voting;
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Mississippi: Access to voting
Texas: Voter ID
Virginia: Ex-felon voting
Washington: Ballot processing
VIII. Available Funding/Awards
2016 Baxter Award for Election Practitioner
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contribution of a professional whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter. Baxter had a firm commitment to the principles of local ownership, transparency and sustainability of electoral administration.
The Baxter Award honors an election practitioner with a proven track record of exceptional dedication to empowering people to have a say in the way they are governed. IFES presents the Baxter Award annually to one individual at a ceremony typically held in concurrence with IFES’ U.S. Election Program or Chief of Party Conference.
The recipient of the Baxter Award must agree to receive the award personally at IFES’ ceremony.
IX. Upcoming Events
Election Law Continuing Legal Education — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT), the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks (NACRC), and the Bipartisan Policy Center will host subject matter experts from federal, state and local government, elections activists, and private practice attorneys. Tentative session topics include: Hot Topics in Access and Integrity; UOCAVA Voters: Legal Trends; Preparing for Voting Equipment Issues and General Election; PCEA, Election Day and the Law; Legal Issues in Considering Automated Voter Registration; and Recounts and Contests: How to Prepare/What to Expect. When: June 25. Where: Memphis, Tennessee. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC/IACREOT Annual Conference — the 2016 annual conference—the last to be held under the NACRC/IACREOT banner will feature plenary sessions, a trade show, committee and board meeting, awards breakfast, annual banquet and a ballgame. When: June 25-30. Where: Memphis, Tennessee. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference — NASS will hold its annual summer meeting in Nashville this year. Agenda programming will include: policy discussions on important issues facing secretaries of state, idea-sharing panels highlighting best practices in state programming, sessions designed for professional development and networking, induction of national officers for the 2016-2017 cycle and excursions to explore Tennessee and learn more about the culture and state government. When: July 14-17. Where: Nashville, Tennessee. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of State Election Directors Summer Conference — the 2016 NASED summer conference will be held in Nashville, Tennessee. Details about the event are still being hammered out, so be sure to check the website often. When: July 14-17. Where: Nashville, Tennessee. For more information, click here.
National Association of Counties Annual Conference — NACo’s Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. The 2016 Annual Conference is hosted by Los Angeles County. The conference will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. Attending the Annual Conference provides member county officials with the opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; learn more about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. When: July 22-25. Where: Long Beach, California. For more information and to register, click here.
National Conference of State Legislators Summer Meeting — the 2016 Legislative Summit will be held in Chicago. The elections portion will include: Politics 2016: State Election Preview, Evaluating Elections, What to Do If You’ve Got a Disputed Election, Technology: Improving Elections One Bit or Byte at a Time? And Helping our Military Vote. When: Aug. 8-11. Where: Chicago. For more information and to register, click here.
Election Center Annual Conference— Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we head into the nal stretch of the Presidential Election year. We will share substantive elections issues including crucial information from federal agencies to local election of cials sharing practical information for day to day election administration operations. This is the also the time to honor and celebrate the winners of the Election Center’s acclaimed Professional Practices Papers’ Program. You will not only hear the winning presentations but you will take home all of the innovative programs and ideas that were submitted by your colleagues in other jurisdictions around the country. When: Aug. 16-20. Where: Philadelphia. For more information and to register, click here.
X. 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 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.
Clerk-Recorder Services Specialist, Contra Costa County, California — The Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Division located in downtown Martinez is recruiting for Clerk-Recorder Services Specialists. These technical positions are assigned to one of the specialized units of the Clerk-Recorder Division: Recording, Clerk Services, Imaging/Indexing and Archive/Warehouse Services. Clerk-Recorder Services Specialists perform the most complex and technical support activities associated with the duties and responsibilities of the Clerk-Recorder Division, plan, coordinate and direct/lead the day-to-day work activities of subordinate staff and ensure that proper procedures are followed while performing those activities. The ideal candidates will possess knowledge and understanding of the County Clerk and Recorder functions. Working knowledge of the principles and practices of work organization and the ability to apply them in planning, coordinating and completing work activities to meet specific deadlines, is a must. Salary: $46,923-$57,035. Deadline: June 24. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Clerk Recorder Services Supervisor, Contra Costa County, California — the Clerk-Recorder of Contra Costa County is recruiting qualified individuals to fill up to Three (3) vacant Clerk-Recorder Services Supervisor positions. These management positions will be assigned to support the units in the Clerk-Recorder Division of the Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department, located in downtown Martinez, CA. Clerk-Recorder Services Supervisors are responsible for planning, organizing, monitoring, supervising, evaluating, and reviewing the work of technical, clerical, and specialist staff in the major functional units of the Clerk-Recorder Division, which include the County Clerk, Recording, and Imaging/Indexing units. Salary: $53,740-$65,321. Deadline: June 24. 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.
Customer Relations Manager, New Jersey (Remote) — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic Customer Relations Manager to work remotely and be based in New Jersey! This position will be responsible for supporting customers by partnering with the sales and operations teams to exceed customer needs and requirements; address and resolve customer concerns; and, identify 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.
Deputy Registrar, 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: $55,574. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy Analyst, Virginia Department of Elections — the Department of Elections (ELECT) is seeking a qualified individual to Analyze and interpret state, federal and local laws and policies in order to ensure uniformity in their interpretation and application to ensure legality and purity in all elections. Salary: $42,614-$62,000. Deadline: June 24. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy and Compliance Supervisor, Virginia Department of Elections — the Department of Elections (ELECT) is seeking a qualified individual to manage a diverse staff and projects and oversees the work of the policy analysts to ensure uniformity in the practices and proceedings and legality and purity in all elections. Serve as liaison to the State Board of Elections, ensuring Board promulgated policies and regulations are properly implemented and maintained. Coordinate the work associated with the legislative session; ensuring the accuracy of and timely submission of analysis/documents, and the implementation of enacted legislation. Salary: $42,614-$75,000. Deadline: June 30. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Denver, Colorado office. This role is responsible for responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems elections products; providing elections support services and customer training; 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.
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government, Ford Foundation —program Officer will particularly inform work on expanding democratic participation—promoting increased and greater representation in elections and shape agendas to reflect the public interest. In collaboration with the Director and team members, the Program Officer will develop a body of work primarily focused on promoting voting rights and other aspects of inclusive non-partisan democratic practice in the United States, that address underlying structural drivers and rules of the game, and seek longer term, more durable change (rather than tactical gains in particular electoral cycles). Opportunities to be addressed may include promoting government’s role in registering voters, strategic litigation, increasing participation and debate in primaries, and developing pathways that connect voting with issues that people care about. The Program Officer will also contribute to CEG efforts that seek to democratize the role of money in politics; and develop, test and demonstrate models of powerful civic engagement with government that build strategic civic capability, achieve policy outcomes, help make government more responsive, and over time contribute to increased trust in government. The Program Officer will work under the direct supervision of the Director of Civic Engagement and Government, and be part of the CEG team. The Program Officer will assess the CEG field, identify key ecosystems and work with various actors and other funders to analyze challenges and opportunities, seek rigorous evidence about program effectiveness, identify levers of change, and play a leading role in shaping specific grant activities. The Program Officer will share substantive knowledge with Foundation colleagues; collaborate broadly across CEG and other thematic areas; serve as a ‘connector’ of grantees, promote thoughtful learning; and work with practitioners, government officials, scholars, NGOs, other donors and corporate sector leaders on issue of common concern to leverage positive impact toward common goals. Deadline: July 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic — project manager plans, directs, and coordinates project activities to ensure that project goals are completed efficiently and on schedule. As a member of the Professional Services Team, the Project Manager works with other team members to manage delivery of the full scope of Hart Voting System implementation and support services. The Project Manager is responsible for ensuring that project goals and deliverables are met, and is directly accountable for the success or failure of projects he or she manages. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Proposal Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston— newly created proposal writer position will be part of a dedicated team producing competitive responses to State and County government RFPs. Responsibilities and Tasks: Write engaging content about technical subjects; format final documents using the company style sheet; collaborate with a team of subject matter experts; edit proposal drafts; respond to deadlines and move quickly; contribute to a database of response text, figures and technical descriptions and benefit from professional growth opportunities. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
RMA Support Consultant, Hart InterCivic — an RMA Support Consultant responds to all return material authorization requests from Hart InterCivic internal and external customers for all Hart Voting System products. The person in this position must possess the ability to communicate effectively with customers, suppliers, or employees. Essential responsibilities include: Acquires a functional level of knowledge for all Hart InterCivic products and their modules; manages and organizes information and documentation for customer issues; applies advanced knowledge of computer software tools to problem-solving situations; knowledge of standard ticket tracking software is a must; in-depth knowledge of standard inventory warehouse processes and procedures; stays informed on support methodologies; keeps up with revisions to any relevant materials (Agile ECOs and effectivity); works cooperatively with Hart InterCivic field personnel to insure customer satisfaction; complies with, and keeps up with changes in, Hart InterCivic policies, procedures and regulations; other duties as assigned. Deadline: Opening until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Software Developer II, Denver, Colorado & Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly technical and passionate Software Developer II to be based in either our downtown Denver office or our downtown Toronto office! This position will be responsible for providing high-level technical expertise to design development, coding, testing and debugging of new voting system software and/or significant enhancements to existing software for our customers. This position will work on a team utilizing an Agile development environment. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Technical Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston — our small and growing team of technical communicators has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience. Documentation is key to success in the election systems domain. Deliverables include tasks and supporting information, and, highly scrutinized specifications and plans. All products and their documentation are certified by federal or state agencies; evaluation is performed by demanding government laboratories. Once products are certified, documentation supports the work of users under pressure whose skills range the technical spectrum. Key Responsibilities: Work collaboratively with fellow communicators and the Engineering, Quality Assurance, Technical Support, Compliance/Certification, Business Development, and Executive Management functions; develop deep understanding of the federal regulations governing voting systems, and, the ability to interpret issues raised by delegated federal and state reviewers in partnership with Compliance/Certification; meet governmental standards and write appropriately for target audiences: voters, poll workers, election officials and their technical staff, and voting system test laboratories; quickly grasp complex technical concepts and make them easily understandable through prose and graphics; deal gracefully with multitasking and constant change; create and modify single-sourced, conditionalized, reusable content in MadCap Flare; adhere and contribute to working styles and standards, information architecture, and documentation production process; and respond to documentation tickets. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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