Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) is a law that sets requirements for voter registration in all fifty states and the District of Columbia the to establish minimum election administration standards for States and units of local government with responsibility for the administration of Federal elections, and for other purposes related to the bill.
Purpose of the Legislation
The Help America Vote Act came in response after the 2000 election when voting rights were under attack after a chaotic filled 2000 election in which voting irregularities and poor regulation caused problems at the polls in battleground states like Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, and Nevada to name a few as the ultimate end result of the election was determined by the Supreme Court of the United StatesCite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.
- Former Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH)
- Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO)
- Current House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH)
- Former Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH)
- Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
- Current House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)
The Bill passed in the House of Representatives with a supermajority of votes  as the bill passed the House 357-48 with 26 Not Voting
Notable Congresspeople who Voted Yes for the Help America Vote Act
- 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
- Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)
- Current House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)
- Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois)
- Former House Minority Leader Richard "Dick" Gephardt (D-Missouri)
- Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)
- Former Congressman Tom DeLay (R-Texas)
- Congressman Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin)
- Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin)
- Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Illinois)
- Former Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Coyners (D-Michigan)
- Former Congressman and Nebraska Cornhuskers Football Coach Tom Osborne (R-Nebraska)
The Help America Vote Act passed the United States Senate with hardly any opposition with 92 in favor , 2 senatords voting against, and 6 senators who did not vote
Notable Senators who Voted Yes for the Help America Vote Act
- 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)
- 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)
- 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee)
- 2008 Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware)
- 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut)
- 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts)
- 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina)
- Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi)
- Former US Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota)
- Former US Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina)
- Former US Senator and Current Democrat Governor of New Jersey Jon Corzine
- Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada)
- Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)
- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas)
- Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
- Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois)
- Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan)
- Senator Joe Libermann (I/D-Connecticut)
- Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin)
- Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)
Notable No Votes in the House of Representatives Included:
- 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas)
- Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Senesenbrenner (R-Wisconsin)
- Former Congresswoman and Current Democrat Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano
- Congressman Mark Udall (D-New Mexico)
Notable No Votes in the US Senate Included:
- 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York)
- Senator Charles Chuck Schumer (D-New York)
Those Notable Congressmen Who Did Not Vote for the Help America Vote Act were:
- Former Congressman and Democrat Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich
- Congressman Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania)
- Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California)
- Former Congressman and Republican Governor of Maryland Bob Elrich
Key Provisions in the Help America Vote Act
Grant Payment Program for Election Administration Improvement
Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act has a section of legislation that allows the Federal Election Commission and other related agencies and boards governed by HAVA to have a grant payment program for states that had punch card or old-fashioned lever type voting machines to replace this equipment with better equipment at minimum optical scan paper ballots and to help in the improvement of how elections are administered in each respective state. Also, provisions of the Help America Vote Act mandated that states used the Section 101 funds in HAVA for:
- Complying with the requirements under title III of HAVA.
- Improving the administration of elections for Federal office, meaning using the funds to help improve how states conduct elections for President, US Senate, and US Congress.
- Educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology.
- Training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers.
- Developing the State plan for requirement of payments to be submitted under part 1 of subtitle D of title II of the Help America Vote Act. This was a provision that forced each State's legislature applying for funds under Section 101 to have a detailed funding plan approved by their Governor.
- Improving, acquiring, leasing, modifying, or replacing voting systems and technology and methods for casting and counting votes. This provision was key as many states like Florida had election problems on punch card or lever type voting methods.
- Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing non visual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language.
- Establishing toll-free telephone hot lines that voters may use to report possible voting fraud and voting rights violations, to obtain general election information, and to access detailed automated information on their own voter registration status, specific polling place locations, and other relevant information.
States could not use Section 101 money to use for any legal costs including judgments imposed by a Court of law or pursuing new litigation. .
Voting Machine Replacement
Section 102 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) also had a provision in which also gave states Federal grant money to replace outdated voting machines with more efficient voting methods including paper ballots with optical scanners. Provisions of the law allowed for states with retroactive grant payments for replacement after January 1, 2001. This provision was key as many states like Florida had problems over the administration of punch card voting machines.
Some states were allowed waivers in Section 101 and 102 of the Help America Vote Act if a state has had budget problems or other issues that prevented a state to be in compliance of the first deadline of the Help America Vote Act.
As mandated per the Help America Vote Act excluding other provisions of law at the state and local level an application for voter registration for election of Federal races (President, House of Representatives, US Senate) may not be accepted or processed by a State unless the application includes:
- The eligible voter's valid driver's license provided by a government authority with the applicant's driver's license number OR in the case of any other applicant the last 4 digits of the applicant's social security number provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- In the case of applicants for voter registration without a driver's license or social security number for an election for Federal office each State's election authority MUST assign the applicant a voter identification number which will serve to identify the applicant for voter registration purposes that each state's SVRS must provide each voter a voter registration ID in the purpose of identifying all eligible voters in each respective state.
When verifying voters pursuant under Section 301 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) each state's elections authority MUST determine whether the information provided by an individual is sufficient to meet the requirements of voter identification in the Help America Vote Act in accordance with respective state laws in pursuant to voter identification. This section of the Help America Vote Act sets the minimum voter ID requirement that state's must enforce when doing voter identification. It is up to each state's legislature to enforce a tougher standard for voter identification like require photo ID for all voters or first time voters. See State by State Voter ID Laws for each state's voter ID Requirements.
Voting Systems Standards
Section 301 described all standards for voting systems in all fifty states and the District of Columbia as the section explicitly states:
That a voting system must permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is casted and counted and to provide the voter with the opportunity (independently) to change the votes on the ballot or correct any error before the ballot and to have the opportunity to be given a replacement ballot before a vote is casted.
Also, Section 301' has provisions to help municipalities to detect, deter, and prevent double voting for more than one candidate in the same office on the same ballot. Subsection III of Section 301 states that if the voter selects votes for more than one candidate for a single office that an elections official must:
- notify the voter directly before casting his or her ballot that the voter has selected more than one candidate for a single office on the ballot
- notify the voter before the casting and counting the ballot of the effects and possible consequences of casting multiple votes for same office or double voting and
- provide the voter with the opportunity to correct the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted.
Section 302 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was a landmark provision of the law as this paved the way for a term that has been coined since the 2004 general election known as a provisional ballot. This legislation also allowed states to have policy set in place on who can cast eligible provisional ballots and for what causes if necessary if its warranted.
The Text of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates that provisional ballots MUST be granted if an individual voter declares that a individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual voter is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office (President, US Congress, and US Senate), but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot as follows:
- An election official at the polling place shall notify the individual that the individual may cast a provisional ballot in that election.
- The individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place upon the execution of a written affirmation by the individual before an election official at the polling place stating that the individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote; and eligible to vote in that election.
NOTE: Each state in the Help America Vote Act must create legislation on how each state administers provisional balloting for State and Local races including Governor, State Senate, State House of Representatives, and local related ballot measures. This is dependent on the voter registration laws in place in each state. For each state's provisional ballot laws please see State by State Provisional Ballot Laws
When a provisional ballot is executed. a election official/judge at the polling place shall transmit the ballot cast by the individual or the voter information contained in the written affirmation statement executed by the individual under the paragraph listed in the provisional ballot affidavit to an appropriate State or local election official for prompt verification under the paragraph under the affidavit certifying eligibility.
When a provisional ballot is casted, it is imperative that the State or local election official to whom the ballot or voter information is transmitted under paragraph certifying the voter's eligibility determines that the individual is eligible under State and local laws to vote, the individual's provisional ballot shall be counted as a vote in that election in accordance with State law. When an individual voter casts a provisional ballot, the appropriate State or local election official shall give the voter written information that states that any individual who casts a provisional ballot will be able to know under the system established under the law certifying the voter's eligibility to whether the vote was counted, and, if the vote was not counted the elections official MUST state the reason that the vote was not counted.
Under Section 302 of the Help America Vote Act state and local elections officials shall establish a free access system (such as a toll-free telephone number or an Internet website) that any individual who casts a provisional ballot may access to discover whether the vote of that individual was counted, and, if the vote was not counted and the reason why the vote was not counted.
SVRS-Statewide Voter Registration System
Section 303 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) details the mandate that each state must have an electronic Statewide Voter Registration System known as SVRS. Under the SVRS requirement, states must each State through a Secretary of State or a State Elections Board have in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list (SVRS) defined, maintained, and administered at the State level (through a Secretary of State, Elections Board) that contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State and assigns a unique identifier to each legally registered voter in the State (in this subsection referred to as the ``computerized list), and includes the following that must be used in a Statewide Voter Registration system:
- The statewide computerized list (SVRS) MUST serve as the single system for storing and managing the official list of registered voters throughout the respective State.
- That the computerized list (SVRS) contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State.
- Under the computerized list (SVRS) a unique identifier (ID Number, etc.) is assigned to each legally registered voter in the State.
- The computerized list shall be coordinated with other agency databases within the State. This provision means that states must coordinate this database with Driver's Licenses, public assistance rolls, and other statewide databases to allow for smooth implementation.
- Any election official in the State, including any local election official, may obtain immediate electronic access to the information contained in the computerized list.
- All voter registration information obtained by any local election official in the respective State MUST be electronically entered into the computerized list on an expedited basis at the time the information is provided to the local official.
- The chief State election official (Secretary of State, Elections Board) MUST provide support to local election officials such as a Municipal Clerk or a City/County elections commission is able to have the needed information to enter into their databases as mandated in Section 303 of the Help America Vote Act.
SVRS-Statewide Voter Registration System Maintenance
The Help America Vote Act also lists strict standards for each state in maintaining its Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS). HAVA mandates that each elections official at the State and local level MUST perform list maintenance on their SVRS with respect to the computerized list on a regular basis as HAVA mandates when a state does SVRS list maintenance that if an individual is to be removed from the SVRS from their respective state, that this maintenance must be done in the compliance of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.) which lists what is legal and illegal for reasons for a state to legally purge their voting rolls what is illegal to remove voters from the SVRS.
When a state removes a ineligible voter from the official list of eligible voters states are mandated as follows that:
- Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 that each respective state's election authority must coordinate with their Department of Corrections the computerized list with State agency records on felony status of convicted felons if they are eligible to vote under each state's voting laws of allowing convicted felons to vote under probation/parole or released from prison
- If a registered voter dies that the registered voter under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 each state's election authority MUST coordinate with the respective agency handling birth and death statistics (i.e. Department of Health and Human Services) in removing these voters as soon as possible from the voting rolls when the death is reported.
- Also, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) puts in strict requirements and oversight to make sure that each state is following their own laws on enforcement of maintenance of their respective Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS).
When each state performs maintenance of their Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) that maintenance of each state's SVRS system MUST be conducted in respect of:
- the name of each registered voter appears in their Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) list.
- That voters who have not registered to vote or who are ineligible to vote are removed from the state's SVRS list as mandated by Section 303 of the Help America Vote Act.
- That each state MUST delete duplicate names from their SVRS list.
Also, the Help America Vote Act, requires states to set standards to make sure their computerized SVRS list is secure and free from hackers and other irregularities. Under HAVA, states MUST meet a minimum Federal standard for accuracy of records under the Statewide Voter Registration System list of each respective state. Also, HAVA mandates that each state MUST set a higher standard above the minimum Federal Standard passed through state by state legislation that each state's SVRS list is accurate as possible under the following provisions that each state is mandated to:
- To have a system of file maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove voters who are ineligible to vote from the official list of eligible voters in their SVRS database/list. Each State's SVRS database allows states to remove voters from their SVRS list who have not responded to a notice from their local or state elections authority and who have not voted in two (2) consecutive (November) general elections (in even numbered years) for Federal office (President, Congress, and US Senate) shall be removed from the official list of eligible voters, except that state election authorities are prohibited to remove a eligible, registered solely by reason of a failure to vote. This provision protects states that make voter registrations permanent.
- That each state has safeguards and quality control measures to ensure that eligible voters are not removed in error from the official list of eligible voters for erroneous reasons.
When states are doing efforts in Sharing information in databases, the head of each state's election authority (Secretary of State, State Board of Elections) MUST enter into a agreement with the their respective Secretary of Transportation to match information in the database of the statewide voter registration system (SVRS) with information in the database of their Motor Vehicle Department to the extent that each state is required to enable the responsible parties between each state's elections authority and their Department of Transportation to verify the accuracy of the information provided on applications for voter registration.
Also, the Help America Vote Act mandates that each state's transportation secretary MUST enter into an agreement with the Commissioner of Social Security under section 205(r)(8) of the Social Security Act of 1933. The Commissioner of Social Security MUST enter into an agreement with the respective transportation secretary upon the request of a agreement within the mandated deadline as it is for the purpose of verifying applicable information as long this information exchange is done legally under the Help America Vote Act and the Social Security Act of 1933. When a transportation secretary enters into an agreement with the Commissioner of Social Security that the information exchange must contain safeguards to assure the maintenance of the confidentiality of any applicable information disclosed and procedures to permit the respective Department of Transportation in each state to use the applicable information for the purpose of maintaining its records information provided pursuant to an agreement in a manner that the Commissioner of Social Security determines appropriate. The Commissioner of Social Security will develop methods and best practices for states to verify the accuracy of information against Social Security records in respect to applications for voter registration IF the last 4 digits of a social security number are provided instead of a driver's license number.
Under this subsection of the Help America Vote Act appropriate information that is allowed in exchange between the Department of Transportation and the Social Security Administration include:
- The name of the registered voter (including the first name and any family forename or surname)
- The voter's date of birth (including the month, day, and year)
- The voter's FULL 8 digit Socical Security Number (SSN) of an individual provided to the Commissioner of Social Security to match the information contained in the Commissioner's records whether if the voter is shown on the records of the Commissioner of Social Security as being deceased; and in conjunction of the respective state's Department of Transportation to matchin records to driver's licenses.
Also states are prohibited in agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Commissioner of Social Security to require the provision of applicable information with regard to a request for a record of an individual if the privacy of a voter is being compromised including interference of an investigation or other excruciating circumstance determined by the Social Security Administration or the Commissioner of Social Security.
Early and Absentee Voting
Title VII of the Help America Vote Act extended protections of absentee voters and those who vote early. Also, these protections include greater protections for full active duty and reserve members of our armed forces including the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Navy SEAL's, JAG Corps, State based Army and Air National Guards, and the Coast Guard along with Americans who are living abroad on temporary visa's.
Under the Help America Vote Act in Section 701 the law creates provisions for voting assistance officers appointed by each secretary of the respective branch of their Armed Forces division (Army, Navy, etc.) to give members of the armed services and to their families necessary resources and information on how to obtain absentee ballots for members and their families and also to make sure ballots are casted correctly and sent in a timely manner to be counted.
The voting assistance officers are also empowered by Section 701 of the Help America Vote Act to use every medium of media avialable to communicate application and submitting deadlines for absentee ballots for all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Also it is up to voting assistance officers to make sure the ballots are properly postmarked and sent. This provision also mandates lead voting assistance officers to report to Congress six months at the end of each election on the administration of overseas absentee voting.
Section 702 of the Help America Vote Act also mandated that each state's election authority also has a defined procedure for absentee ballots for citizens living abroad or serving in the military. This provision of the law made sure that those who are serving overseas or abroad have the right to vote for state and local races including Governor, State Senate, State House of Representatives, and other local races and ballot measures. All overseas and military voters have the right to vote for Federal Races using the Federal write-in absentee ballot for President, US Congress, and US Senate, but it is up to each state's legislature to have in law in place defining who can vote in a respective state being overseas or serving in the military.
In Addition to the Section 702 provision protecting and educating overseas and military voters on absentee balllots and early voting, Section 706 of the Help America Vote Act outlaws any state including the District of Columbia from refusing to accept ANY valid voter registration application or absentee ballot application submitted by ANY voter who is a uniformed services member before the first date that voter registration applications are allowed to be processed. This provision is for Federal races only, again, it must be up to the states to have legislation in place to protect a uniformed services voter's right to vote in state races and ballot measures.
Who Can Enforce the Help America Vote Act
Under Sections 401 and 402 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, both a Federal Attorney General and State Attorney General can enforce provisions of the law.
The Federal Attorney General can bring a civil lawsuit against any State or jurisdiction which has elections authority in an appropriate United States District Court for declaratory and injunctive relief including:
- A temporary restraining order
- A permanent or temporary injunction, or other order as requested by the Federal Attorney General as this may be necessary to carry out the uniform and nondiscriminatory election technology and administration requirements under sections 301, 302, and 303 of the Help America Vote Act.
A state Attorney General has the right reserved in Section 402 of the Help America Vote Act to enforce the following:
- Having a written and defined complaint and arbitration procedure for local municipalities applying for funds listed under Sections 101 and 102 of the Help America Vote Act.
- That a State Attorney General MUST have a defined remedy procedure to keep the state's election authority in compliance in all aspects of the Help America Vote Act from database management to distribution of Federal Grant monies used in compliance of HAVA.
- That a State Attorney General MUST handle all complaints from individuals over violations of the Help America Vote Act done by a certain elections authority.
- That it is up to the Attorney General to intervene with the elections authority to remedy out a judgment to make sure a elections authority at the state and local level is done without a court hearing in the best interests of the state.
- That if nothing is resolved under section 402 of the Help America Vote Act that an attorney general can pursue civil litigation to force compliance in a court of law.
- ↑ "HAVA Overview", Help America Vote Act Overview, December 13, 2002
- ↑ Thomas Database, Help America Vote Act-House Votes, 11/14/2001
- ↑ US Senate, Help America Vote Act-Senate Votes, 10/16/2002
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 "Text of the Help America Vote Act", Federal Election Commission, October 12, 2002