Perspectives from Partners: Natl Assn of Secretaries of State (NASS)

By Yejin Jang posted Aug 22,2016 11:55 AM


This month, we sat down with National Association of Secretaries of State Executive Director Leslie Reynolds to learn more about the NASS membership and issues relevant to their sector of government. Founded in 1904, NASS is the nation's oldest, nonpartisan professional organization for public officials. The association serves as a medium for the exchange of information between states and fosters cooperation in the development of public policy.

Can you describe the membership for the National Association of Secretaries of State and what they do?

Our members are secretaries of state and lieutenant governors from the 50 states and U.S. territories. Their responsibilities include registering, training, and testing notaries public and overseeing business registrations.  Forty secretaries of state also serve as chief state election officials, overseeing the administration of elections and working with the local clerks who run things at the local level.

Finally, about twenty secretaries are responsible for state heritage functions, including museums and state archives. Almost all NASS members have state records management responsibilities.  They are also keepers of the [state] seal, so they are present when there is a signing for a piece of legislation.

Secretary of state offices typically serve as the official record keepers for the state, often storing and securing mountains of data. Some records are still in paper form, but many state processes are increasingly becoming digitized. NASS members are working on big data/open data initiatives that utilize some of this collected data - especially business registration data – since this raw information can be used to serve as a reliable indicator of a state’s economic health and climate for business growth.  For example, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has its award-winning “Go Code Colorado” initiative, an effort to build applications using publicly available data.

In West Virginia, the Secretary of State’s office has utilized business information/data to create the Business Industry Growth (BIG) Map App which provides key business statistics in infographic form.

Secretaries are also exploring the creation of more robust identity management systems for business. These would allow for multi-factor authentication, self-service in account management and use of a single credential for all state-related transactions and compliance reporting. One of the major upsides to moving in this direction may be a reduction in business identity theft, based on state input to the NASS Business Identity Theft Task Force.

West Virginia Secretary of State BIG Map App

Streamlining for Success: Enhancing Business Transactions with Secretary of State Offices 

Harnessing the Power of Digital in State Records Management

NASS recently concluded their conference in Nashville. What happened at the meeting and what was discussed?  The agenda included a session on blockchain, was that a big topic of discussion?

We had a large number of attendees at our 2016 annual conference in Nashville. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos gave a presentation on blockchain-related legislation that was introduced in his state, but this is a new topic for our group. It is likely to be an issue for other states as well, and likely a topic where Secretaries of State and state CIOs can work together for sound policies.

NASS members also spent a lot of time in Nashville discussing preparations for the November 8 presidential election and related voter outreach efforts. A big initiative going forward will include foreign observers of the U.S. elections from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who are invited by the U.S. State Department. These observers will learn about the U.S. election process while they are in the states.

Remote notarization was also a hot topic. The issue basically stems from the evolution of digital technology, requiring NASS and others (including the Uniform Law Commission) to reconsider the long-held notarial principle that “personal appearance” requires physical presence. Virginia and Montana now allow notaries to utilize webcam technology to satisfy the requirement of personal presence.

In July, NASS reaffirmed support for national standards on electronic notarizations, but they work is not done. While they are technology-neutral, the NASS e-Notarization Standards (originally created in 2006 and updated in 2011), still contain a physical presence requirement. In addition to the merits of physical presence versus virtual presence, ongoing discussions are aimed at addressing the potential validity and interstate recognition of remotely e-notarized documents.

NASS has organized a task force to study webcam notarizations and the group has significant participation. The task force will review remote notarization technologies and develop proposals regarding webcam usage and further discuss whether the “personal presence” requirement requires actual physical presence.

NASS Electronic Notarization Standards

NASS Resolution Reaffirming Support for the National Electronic Notarization Standards

NASS Launches Remote Notarization Task Force

Recently, there has been talk of designating elections systems as critical infrastructure.  Have there been discussions about that within the NASS membership?

The critical infrastructure conversation is new, but the topic of election security comes up every time there is an election - especially during presidential elections. Because our election system is highly decentralized and voting machines are not made to connect the Internet, the threat of national hacking is slim. It may be useful for Secretaries of State and state CIOs to consider doing a joint statement to ensure the public that election equipment is secure and also educate citizens on the types of controls and protections that are in place.

NASS Statement on Cyber Security and Election Readiness

How do your members view cybersecurity?

Last April, NASS hosted “Tech Talk: SOS IT Staff Roundtable” which was an opportunity to bring together in-house IT staff who focused on issues relevant to secretaries of state like elections.  We had multiple roundtable discussions which were very productive.  Participants, again, were largely focused on elections and discussed the building of databases and making elections accessible; accessibility has been governed by very old and vague guidance. Regarding databases, meeting attendees discussed common data formats, which is especially relevant for voter registration info; when a person moves out of state or dies, it’s important to keep this information updated. They also discussed automatic voter registration, which was implemented in Oregon at the beginning of this year, and how this process is working. This election will be the last “clipboard” election, with at least 32 states and DC offering online voter registration for November.

Business identify theft is another topic that comes up related to cybersecurity. States like Colorado are discussing digital identities for businesses and focusing on the importance of prevention and mitigation, as well as punishment for those that abuse the system. NASS members want to work on these issues with law enforcement and attorneys general, who also have a stake in the matter.

Issues related to mobile devices have also come up within the context of security, especially ballot selfies, where someone posts to social media a photo of them with their marked ballot (some states prohibit this practice while others allow it ).  NASS members also briefly discussed Pokemon Go and how it might affect voting; will poll workers think that Pokemon Go players are taking [illegal] selfies or will it help to bring young voters to the polls?

NASS Election Ready Resources for the November 2016 Presidential Election

Any final thoughts for CIOs?

NASS members are interested in discussing with NASCIO tools and resources that would benefit secretaries of state.  We would like to promote each other’s work and exchange information on cybersecurity, data formats in government, etc.

We are also interested in learning about funding and IT procurement, especially developing and responding to RFPs, marketing RFPs and learning more about effective and useful ways to get valuable responses.