What is the Help America Vote Act? An Explainer

By Kosoko Jackson & Na’ima Jenkins

Fifteen years ago, we passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in order to reform election infrastructure and election systems across the country. HAVA provided federal funding for states to update voting equipment and meet new requirements to ensure that our systems are as reliable as possible.

Today, many state election systems have not been updated since receiving support from HAVA in 2002. We are in serious need of prioritizing the structure and security of our election infrastructure, and we must call on our elected officials to act as they last did in 2002 to open the next chapter of election reform.

What’s the Help America Vote Act?: A quick overview

  • After the 2000 Presidential Election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to address logistical and accessibility issues that came up during the voting process. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law in 2002.

HAVA established required standards for states to follow, including the following:

  • Provisional Voting
  • Voting Information
  • Updated and Upgraded Voting Equipment
  • Statewide Voter Registration Databases
  • Voter Identification Procedures
  • Administrative Complaint Procedures
  • It also provided federal assistance and funding so that the states were able to meet the new requirements.
  • Under HAVA, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was also established

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was also enacted due to HAVA. The EAC, a United States government (independent) agency, created to assist and aid in federal elections, assist states with HAVA compliance, and allocate HAVA funds to states. The EAC is also a clearinghouse of information regarding election procedures and information.

Remind me, what’s the EAC?

  • The Election Assistance Commission, established by HAVA, is an independent and bipartisan federal commission, comprised of both Democrats and Republicans, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
  • The EAC’s responsibilities as outlined by HAVA include
  • Certifying new voting systems and checking that they meet HAVA’s requirements
  • Distributing HAVA funds to the states
  • Conducting research and administering a national clearinghouse on elections that include shared practices, information for voters, and other resources to improve elections

Read the full Help America Vote Act of 2002

That sounds good, but now what?

Now, we need to seriously prioritize our election infrastructure. It is unacceptable that the last time some of these systems were updated was over a decade ago.

Security and accessibility in our democracy are essential. This past presidential election (2016) was the closest we’ve had since 2000. In the aftermath of the 2000 election, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House, worked together to make improvements to our elections. We need to be able to make those improvements again.

For more on this issue, check out the Center for American Progress’ report on how we can improve election security.

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