Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities
Dan Tokaji's Blog
- Election Law Blog (Rick Hasen)
- Election Updates (Michael Alvarez & Thad Hall)
- Votelaw Blog (Ed Still)
- Leave it to the Lower Courts: On Judicial Intervention in Election Administration, 68 Ohio State Law Journal 1065 (2007)
- The New Vote Denial: Where Election Reform Meets the Voting Rights Act, 57 South Carolina Law Review 689 (2006)
- Early Returns on Election Reform: Discretion, Disenfranchisement, and the Help America Vote Act, 73 George Washington Law Review 1206 (2005)
Monday, January 9
A Happy New Year (Except for Election Officials)
I'm back in Columbus and back to the blog after a restful vacation. There's a lot to catch up on, not the least of which is the hearings on Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court and the impact that he would have on voting rights if confirmed.
Today, however, I'd like to focus on a critical subject that's gotten a lot less attention: the deadlines for compliance with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. There were actually two important deadlines that expired on January 1, 2006. The first was the deadline for having statewide registration databases in place, under section 303 of HAVA. The original deadline was actually January 1, 2004, but most states got a two-year extension. The second deadline was for meeting the voting system requirements in section 301, the most significant of which is having at least one unit at each polling place accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, those states which received federal funds for the replacement of punch-card and lever voting machines have to replace those systems by the first federal election in 2006.
According to this report from the Sacramento Bee, there are 21 states that aren't in compliance with the deadline for accessible voting technology. And the AP reports that at least 11 states were likely to miss the registration database deadline. As electionline.org notes in its "The List" for 2006, one of the big fears among election officials is what the Department of Justice of do to enforce HAVA. Already, DOJ has entered into an agreement with one state (California) that wasn't ready to meet HAVA's deadlines. That agreement states:
There was a lack of adequate planning and action by the prior leadership of the Office of the [California Secretary of State] before January 2005 in the development and implementation of a statewide voter registration list that would comply with Section 303(a) of HAVA. There were also disruptive circumstances in the operations of the Office of the Secretary of State, including the resignation of the previous Secretary of State [Kevin Shelley, who resigned amid allegations that he'd misused HAVA funds for partisan purposes] on February 2, 2005 and the subsequent appointment and legislative confirmation on March 30, 2005 of the current Secretary. The actions of the prior leadership of the Office of the Secretary placed the State in imminent danger of not having a HAVA-compliant statewide voter registration system in place by the January 1, 2006 deadline for compliance with Section 303(a), and have made it impossible for the State to meet the requirements by January 1, 2006 in the optimum manner desired by the State.It goes on to set forth an interim plan for compliance, the gist of which is that the 58 counties' registration lists will be merged into the "CalVoter" database. Counties will continue to keep data on their own systems, which is to be uploaded on a regular basis. Among the other states that aren't in compliance with HAVA is New York, and it's reported that DOJ is also negotiating with that state, though it appears that California's the only one so far with a formal agreement.