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National Issues

EAC to Discuss States' Use of Remaining HAVA Funds at Denver Meeting PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
March 19, 2008
The Election Assistance Commission is in Denver this week for two days of meetings. Fresh from a pair of often contentious Congressional oversight hearings, the Commission will be addressing issues that will affect the next generation of voting system technology as well as the equipment that will be used in election this year.

Today, the Commission is hosting the third in a series of roundtable discussions as part of the extended public comment period on the next iteration of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines. The roundtable will include representatives of the four accredited voting system testing laboratories (iBeta Quality Assurance, SysTest Quality Assurance, Wyle Laboratories, and InfoGuard Security Assurance)), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and two of the EAC’s technical reviewers. A list of participants and an overview of the roundtable has been published by the EAC and a series of questions has been distributed to the laboratories. The discussion is open to the public and transcripts will be available on the EAC website.

On Thursday, the EAC will hold a public meeting to discuss a wide range of topics. The Commission will hear updates on the Election Management Guidelines and the Election Data Survey, and studies on Voter Hotlines, and Overseas and Military Voters. The Commission will also hear a briefing from the National Association of State Election Directors and will be addressed by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Perhaps most significantly, the Commission will consider two policy proposals, including one to reverse an earlier policy regarding states’ use of remaining HAVA funds. The Commission will also once again consider changes to the national voter registration form that have failed to gain the votes necessary for adoption in several previous meetings.

Last May, in response to a request for clarification from Florida Secretary of State Kevin Browning, the EAC relied on a staff determination that in was unreasonable for Florida to use its remaining HAVA Title II funds to replace voting equipment that had been purchased initially with HAVA funds. Support for this determination came from Office of Budget and Management Circulars related to the use of Federal grant money. The EAC worked out an accounting arrangement that allowed Florida to fund it conversion to paper ballot optical scan systems, but the effect of the EAC’s policy has been to restrict other states, in particular California, to use remaining HAVA funds to replace voting equipment.

Language was inserted into the FY08 Omnibus Appropriations bill that contradicted the EAC policy, a letters from members of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the EAC’s budget expressed there objection to the EAC policy. Similar opinions have been expressed by other members of Congress in letters and hearings and by numerous public advocacy organizations including Verified Voting.

EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez posted a proposed policy clarification last month that would, if adopted by the full Commission tomorrow that would reverse the Commission’s previous position. The Commission has requested an opinion from the Government Accountability Office on the matter that is expected to be delivered today.

Details of tomorrow’s meeting are available at the EAC website.
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