The election of November 2000 highlighted the need for serious election reform in our country, which is why I co-sponsored a bi-partisan bill to reform and organize the nation’s election system.
In mid-December the House passed this legislation, and I’m hopeful the Senate will act quickly to approve the bill.
This bi-partisan bill addresses the shortfalls in the system and offers solutions to help states carry out our democratic process. I believe it is a good bill that realizes my goal of updating our election systems while maintaining local and state control.
Our election reform bill, the Help America Vote Act, authorizes $400 million to buy out punch card voting machines; creates an Election Assistance Commission; allocates $2.25 billion in election fund payments to states; establishes minimum standards for state election systems; creates the Help America Vote Foundation and College Program; and reduces postage rates for official election mail.
The legislation aims to accomplish the above goals for improvement while galvanizing volunteers to help America vote. We want to restore America’s confidence in the democratic process. By establishing standards and helping states modernize their equipment, our proposal will take real steps toward making elections fair and transparent.
Specifically, the Help America Vote Act authorizes one-time payments to states or counties to replace punch card voting systems in time for the November 2002 general election. Funding of $6,000 per precinct would be made available to states for buy out purposes. The bill also authorizes one-time payments to states or counties that enhance the performance of existing voting equipment, such as lever machines.
The bi-partisan Election Assistance Commission will serve as a national clearinghouse for information and review of procedures for federal elections. The commission also will consist of a standards board of state and local election officials and a board of advisors of election experts and interested parties. Among other duties, the Standards Board and Board of Advisors would develop voluntary engineering and performance standards for voting systems and voluntary election management practices.
The bill also authorizes $20 million in grants by the commission for research and development efforts to improve voting systems and $10 million for a pilot program for testing equipment and technology.
If states choose to participate under the Help America Vote Act, they would be subject to minimum standards for election systems.
The election reform proposal creates the Help America Vote College Program, which would encourage college students to assist state and local governments in the administration of elections by serving as nonpartisan poll workers.
Given the uncertainty that followed the 2000 election, I believe all Americans want an election system that is fair, accurate, and up to date. IBI