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For Immediate Release
State Election Officials React Favorably
to $1.5 Billion Allocation
WASHINGTON, DC-Calling it an historical week for democracy and civil rights, the nation's top state election officials today announced their overwhelming support for a Senate budget bill that would give state and local governments $1.5 billion to overhaul elections in the United States. Senate leaders announced the funding Wednesday during the unveiling of their $390 billion-plus budget bill.
"During a holiday weekend when the nation will be memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream for strengthening our democracy, we are thrilled to have the kind of funding that will help make election reform a reality for everyone, in every state, " said NASS President Dan Gwadosky, secretary of the state of Maine. "Thanks to the Senate's bipartisan commitment, states won't be left with unfunded mandates on election reform. They can move forward with meeting the new federal requirements for elections without wondering where they will get the money to pay for the changes."
The Help America Vote Act, signed into law during the 107th Congress, authorizes a total of $3.9 billion over three years, beginning with $2.16 billion in fiscal year 2003. Approximately $650 million is authorized directly to states in 2003 to replace antiquated voting machines and improve election administration. The majority of funding, approximately $3 billion, is supposed to be distributed to states over three years (upon the submission of a state election reform plan) according to a formula based on voter population. An additional $170 million is allocated to increase polling place access for disabled voters, improve voting technology, test voting equipment, and provide state advocacy systems for the disabled.
"We're looking forward to working with Congress and the federal agencies to see that the $1.5 billion gets to the states as soon as possible," said NASS Executive Director Leslie Reynolds. "And during the next few months, we'll be working to secure the remaining $600 million we need to fully fund this effort in a supplemental bill or some other vehicle."
HAVA mandates states to abide by specific federal election requirements, including the following: provide voters an opportunity to correct ballot errors, implement a voting system with manual audit capacity, provide at least one disability-accessible voting machine per precinct, provide alternative language accessibility for voters, allow for provisional voting, and develop a centralized, statewide voter registration base. The bill also requires states to implement statewide voter identification requirements for first-time voters.
Currently, 38 NASS members serve as the chief state
election officer, a role that includes administering elections, helping
local officials recruit and train poll workers, and managing statewide
voter education programs.
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS)
Founded in 1904, NASS is the nation's oldest non-partisan government
association, representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto
Rico, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands.