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For Immediate Release
January 17, 2003
Contact: Kay Albowicz

State Election Officials React Favorably to $1.5 Billion Allocation
for Election Reform in Senate Budget Bill
MLK holiday underscores major victory for voting rights & democracy

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.