The Help America Vote Act

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in 2002 in response to the voting discrepencies exposed in the 2000 presidential election.  HAVA imposes a number of requirements on states, with the stated purpose of bringing voting practices in the separate states and precincts to a national standard.

HAVA requires that all states upgrade their voting systems.  Many precincts in 2000 were still using lever and punch card voting systems.  The new legislation mandates that these machines be replaced immediately and sets aside federal funding for that purpose.  All precincts are required to upgrade to electronic voting devices.  Critics of the bill are concerned by this statement, believing that electronic voting machines were part of the problem in 2000.

HAVA also seeks to make voting easier for the disabled.  It includes provisions stating that the federal government will provide funds to the states for the purposes of improving polling place accessibility for the disabled, such as by improving the paths of travel, entrances and exits or providing voting areas for the blind or visibly impaired.  In addition, the Secretary of Health and
Human Services will pay the state’s protection and advocacy system to “ensure full participation in the electoral process” for disabled individuals including registering to vote, casting a vote, and accessing polling places.

In response to the confusions in the 2000 elections, HAVA requires that all voting machines tell voters whom they have selected to cast their ballots for, and give them the opportunity to change their votes if an error has occurred.

HAVA proclaims that if a voter shows up a to a polling place is not on the list of registered voters, they have the right to cast a provisional ballot.  The government will determine whether they are truly registered or not at a later date.  The act also requires that military personnel be provided with voter registration forms, absentee ballots, and election information.

HAVA sets in place several national requirements pertaining to voter registration.  First, when registering, all citizens must provide either a valid driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number when registering to vote in a federal election.  Second, all voters must provide either a valid driver’s license, the last four digits of their social security number, a valid photo ID, copy of current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter either with their registration or when they vote.

Finally, HAVA contains clauses providing for the enforcement of its provisions.  The Attorney General has the right to bring civil action against any State or locality as he/she deems necessary for the enforcement of the uniform and non-discriminatory requirements of the bill.  In addition any state receiving any of the federal funding provided by the bill must establish an administrative complaint process for citizens to file their complaints.  The state must review all complaints, but can dismiss a complaint if they feel it is unfounded.

Read the full text of HAVA

Read an Open letter from FairVote and other organizations calling for Hava to be fully funded

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
Mandatory Voting? Automatic Registration? How Un-American!
Huffington Post

President of Air America Media, Mark Green, explains why Instant Runoff Voting, Automatic Registration and Mandatory Voting are not only important but could lead to a more democratic society.

September 30th 2009
Can a 17-year-old register to vote? It depends
Ventura County Star

"Most Californians register to vote not because a political cause has touched their heart, but rather because they checked a box on a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they received or renewed their driver´┐Żs license."

September 27th 2009
Giving teens a civic voice
The Fayetteville Observer

In January, North Carolina will become the third state to implement FairVote-endorsed youth preregistration.

September 8th 2009
Give voters final say on vacancies

The two legislators proposing a constitutional amendment mandating elections to fill Senate vacancies make their case in the pages of Politico.