by Wendy Underhill
At the beginning of this century the U.S. all of a sudden got excited about voting reform; everyone probably remembers why. One outcome of this sudden focus on elections (formerly a sleepy corner of public administration), was the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.
HAVA did a whole bunch of things, including offering federal funds to the states for elections-related upgrades and creating a federal agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (U.S. EAC). The bulk of the law, however, established standards for states to meet on a host of elections-related issues. Funny thing: the same issues that were of concern in 2002 are still of concern in 2011.
We know this from looking at a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service, HAVA and Election Reform: Overview and Issues (January 13, 2011).
From a states perspective, the good news is that the report says, right there in paragraph #1, "However, the law did not supplant state and local control over election administration." It is local jurisdictions, under the guidance of state policy makers and elections officials, that run elections by registering voters, printing ballots, organizing and supervising polling places, counting ballots and reporting results.
So what were those issues that HAVA addressed?