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Washington, DCU.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, today sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee requesting full funding for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget. 

Senators Feinstein noted that when HAVA was passed in 2002 Congress made a commitment to provide $4 billion to the States to help meet the new voting requirements and upgrade their antiquated voting systems.  However, $798 million of those funds were never appropriated.

In her letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Senator Feinstein noted that the current baseline from the President’s proposed budget provided no funds for these election reform efforts and she urged that the full $798 million be budgeted.

Failure to budget the funds, she said, would also make it very difficult to appropriate the money urgently needed by the states to upgrade their electronic voting machines to ensure that there is a durable, voter-verified paper ballot for each vote cast. 

"I am concerned that, if this funding is not appropriated, the lack of such funds will further undermine our citizens’ confidence in the integrity of our election systems and our form of participatory government,” Senator Feinstein wrote.  “Voters will continue to have doubts about whether the votes they cast were counted.  A voter-verified paper ballot requirement nationwide supports ballot access and security.  My major policy goal is to restore the public’s confidence in the final results of Federal elections in America for 2008.”

Senator Feinstein also forwarded a letter to the Budget Chairman and Ranking Member from a wide-range of associations representing state and local election officials and civil, disability rights and voter advocacy organizations urging full funding for HAVA.

A copy of that letter is attached.

The following is the text of Chairman Feinstein’s letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Conrad and Ranking Member Gregg:

February 28, 2007

The Honorable Kent Conrad, Chairman
The Honorable Judd Gregg, Ranking Member
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Kent and Judd:

This responds to your letter dated February 5, 2007, regarding the views and estimates submission under the jurisdiction of the Rules and Administration Committee on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.

I reviewed the President’s Budget for FY08 regarding the Committee’s Legislative Branch accounts and do not anticipate significant changes for the purposes of the budget resolution.

At this time, however, the Committee plans new election reform legislation that would have some, but not major, budgetary impact.  I will introduce a bill that would, among other things, require States to implement a voter-verified paper ballot for all voting systems nationwide by January 1, 2008, in time for the Presidential election.  This bill amends the federal election administration requirements under Title III of the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”), P.L. 107-252. 

To ensure that Congress did not impose an unfunded mandate on the States, HAVA authorized nearly $4 billion in payments to the States over three fiscal years to implement its requirements.  To date, Congress has appropriated over $3.1 billion and States are in various stages of implementation of the Act.  However, Congress failed to appropriate approximately $798 million in HAVA funds, of which $724 million are for requirements and $74 million are for disability access for voting purposes.  Consequently, this funding shortfall of millions of dollars has impacted States’ ability to fully implement election-related programs.  These circumstances will only be further exacerbated by additional unfunded federal mandates for State implementation by the 2008 elections.   

The President’s budgets failed to include any funding for HAVA requirements payments over the last three fiscal years, FY06-FY08.  Similarly, Congress failed to appropriate such funds authorized in HAVA.  In addition to the $600 million authorized for FY05, but not appropriated, Congress continued to underfund HAVA by an additional $198 million in FY06 and FY07.      

This is unacceptable.  I am concerned that, if this funding is not appropriated, the lack of such funds will further undermine our citizens’ confidence in the integrity of our election systems and our form of participatory government.  Voters will continue to have doubts about whether the votes they cast were counted.  A voter-verified paper ballot requirement nationwide supports ballot access and security.  My major policy goal is to restore the public’s confidence in the final results of Federal elections in America for 2008.

After the details of voting and vote counting became the focus of the November 2000 Presidential election, Congress made a commitment to the States and the voters to be a full partner in the conduct of Federal elections. We must not break this commitment now.

In the past, your Committee has recognized this commitment and provided significant funds for implementing HAVA requirements.  However, in the last two fiscal years, FY06 and FY07, the Senate budget resolution provided negligible election reform funding for the Election Assistance Commission and payments to the States.  As a result, only $30.1 million was enactment in FY06 under H.R. 3010 (P.L. 109-149) and only $16.2 million in FY07 under H.J. Res. 20 (P.L. 110-5).   

The current views and estimates provide a baseline of $0 dollars for election reform programs.  The absence of election reform funds in the FY08 budget resolution will not only impede the efforts of the States to fully comply with election laws, but will further erode public confidence in our election systems and electronic voting systems.  

I recommend a change in the Congressional Budget Office’s 2007 baseline from $0 to $798 million for election reform programs and requirements from discretionary appropriations in the general government function to the Election Assistance Commission.  I believe it is imperative that States receive full funding for all election reform requirements in order to ensure that the 2008 Presidential election is conducted with accuracy, reliability, security, and transparency.

Enclosed you will find a letter from a broad coalition of organizations representing State and local governments in partnership with voting rights and disabilities communities urging Congress to fully fund HAVA with  $798 million in FY08.

Thank you for your assistance and continuing support.  If you require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me or have your staff contact my Rules Committee staff -- Howard Gantman, Staff Director, Veronica Gillespie, Elections Counsel, or Adam Ambrogi, Counsel.


                        Dianne Feinstein

Following is the HAVA support letter referenced in Senator Feinstein’s letter:

Make election reform a reality
Support full funding for havA
February 27, 2007

Dear Member of Congress:

The undersigned organizations urge you to support full funding for the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and appropriate the remaining $798 million of authorized funding.  Of this amount, $724 million is for the federally-mandated processes and equipment that state and local governments were required to have in place for federal elections in 2006 and $74 million is for assisting state and local governments in making all polling places accessible.   It is imperative that states and local governments receive all of the funding they were promised to fully implement statewide voter registration databases, keep up with the spiraling costs of purchasing and maintaining voting equipment and ensure proper poll worker training and voter education in this environment of continual change in voting equipment and procedures. 

Lack of federal funding for HAVA has led many states and local governments to scale back on their intended purchase of voting equipment, contributing to wait times and lines at the polls, and has constrained their efforts to ensure polling place accessibility, to train poll workers and to conduct voter education and outreach.  Most devastatingly, Congressional delay in providing proper funding for the Election Assistance Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop standards for voting equipment prevented these standards from being issued in time for states to comply by the deadline prescribed in HAVA.  This led to dramatic cost increases and resulted in many jurisdictions replacing voting equipment more than once in an effort to comply with evolving guidance on ensuring both accessibility and security.  While the efforts of the EAC and NIST have since been funded, delay in their funding has contributed significantly to cost increases for state and local governments.

Full funding is necessary to fulfill the promise of HAVA and provide resources to state and local governments meet the new and changing expectations for voting equipment and procedures.  Should you have any questions, please contact the organizations listed below.

Organizations Representing State and Local Election Officials
Election Center
International Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers
National Association of Counties
National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks
National Association of Secretaries of State
National Conference of State Legislatures

Civil and Disability Rights and Voter Advocacy Organizations
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Asian American Justice Center
Brennan Center for Justice
Common Cause
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
League of Women Voters of the United States
National Council of Jewish Women
National Disability Rights Network
People For the American Way
Service Employees International Union
The Arc of the United States
United Automobile Workers
United Cerebral Palsy