Feeling the Pain: States, EAC likely to see cuts in federal budget debate
By Doug Chapin
The budget debate is in full swing in Washington, DC and around the country as the White House and a divided Congress spar over priorities for federal spending both right now and for the next fiscal year (which begins October 1, 2011).
Anyone following the debate is likely well-aware of the professed commitment to fiscal discipline at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. To date, this commitment to discipline has translated into a focus on identifying budget cuts wherever they might be found in the federal budget. As a result, policymakers and stakeholders across the nation are learning that the concept of “shared sacrifice” – at the least the version that involves reduced or eliminated funding – is less rhetoric than reality.
The election community is no exception. Less than ten years after the federal government made its first-ever investment in state and local administration via the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, election officials are seeing the federal government take steps to reduce the flow of federal money for voting improvements across America.
One immediate casualty is the election reform grants established to help states meet the various mandates enacted as part of HAVA. The President’s fiscal year 2012 (FY12) budget formally zeroes out these funds, which have not been replenished for several budget cycles (beginning during President G.W. Bush’s second term) after about $3 billion went to states in the fiscal years following HAVA. These funds have been identified as consensus cuts and were included in both versions of the FY11 continuing budget resolution (“CR”) originating in the House of Representatives. The latest CR (H.J.Res.44) passed the House 335-91 on March 1, passed the Senate 91-9 March 2, and was signed by the President later the same day.
The President’s signature will leave the EAC with about $69 million in previously authorized funds for grants to the states – but no new funds. The CR also rescinds half of $10 million in grant funds for planned studies of pre-election logic and accuracy testing and accessible voting technology.
The other target for reduced funding is the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) itself. The President’s budget cuts the agency’s proposed budget $4 million from last year, authorizing $14 million - $3.25 million of which is to be transferred to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for voting system testing and guidelines. Barring any other negotiated changes, the EAC will be left with approximately $12 million for FY12. At press time it was not yet clear what impact the cuts would have on EAC operations.
When HAVA was enacted in 2002, there was some uncertainty about whether or not the nearly $4 billion authorized represented a down payment on a new and longstanding federal role in election administration. As the FY11/12 budget debates continue, it seems pretty clear that while the federal role created by HAVA may be longstanding, the level of funding will not.
Making Reform a Reality: An After-Action Report on Implementation of the Omnibus Election Reform Act - District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, February 17, 2011 – The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics describes and evaluates how it implemented multiple mandated changes to the voting process during the 2010 election season. These changes included introducing early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, new voting equipment, same-day voter registration, post-election audits, new poll worker management requirements and conducting several feasibility studies.
The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say - Vishal Agraharkar, Wendy Weiser, and Adam Skaggs, Brennan Center for Justice at The New York University School of Law, February 2011 – The Brennan Center examines, after reviewing every court case in which a photo ID law has been challenged, the costs states must incur if they decide to implement photo ID requirements for voters, including free photo IDs, ensuring that IDs are reasonably accessible to all eligible voters, and including sufficient voter education programs and poll worker training.
Assessing Electoral Performance in the New Mexico 2010 General Election – Lonna Rae Atkeson, R. Michael Alvarez, Alex N. Adams, and Lisa A. Bryant, The University of New Mexico, February 2011 – This report provides a systematic examination of New Mexico’s November 2010 general election. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are combined to analyze the state’s election process. Similar reports were produced following the 2006 and 2008 general elections.
Florida: Election proposals
Illinois: Voting Rights Act
Maryland: Motor Voter
New York: Lever voting machines
North Carolina: Voter ID
Ohio: Online registration
Texas: Voter ID
Vermont: Voting rules