(202) 225 - 3130
WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD), the lead Democratic House sponsor of the landmark Federal election reform bill (the "Help America Vote Act") that was signed into law by President Bush last October, released the following statement regarding funding in the President's Fiscal Year 2004 Budget to implement those reforms:
"At a meeting at the White House in January, I urged the President and top Congressional Republicans to support funding for Federal election reform, and they reacted positively. In fact, the Senate included $1.5 billion in funding for election reform in its Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2003 and I expect this funding to be included in the final conference report.
"At long last, we stood at the brink of turning election reform rhetoric into reality. However, on this most fundamental issue in our democracy, it seems the Administration takes two steps backward for every step forward. In its budget for FY04, the Administration calls for $500 million in funding for election reform, even though the Help America Vote Act authorizes at least $1.55 billion for grants to states, payments to states and localities to ensure the disabled have access to polling places, and funding for the Election Administration Commission.
"I am heartened that the Administration recognizes that real election reform is an ongoing process. However, the funding included in the President's budget is simply inadequate. It fails to provide the funding authorized in this legislation, and in a larger sense fails the most basic test of any democracy - whether it will honor its commitment to protect every citizen's right to vote and to have his or her vote counted.
"We can and must do better. Our next general election is less than two years away, and states and localities must begin to upgrade their election systems without delay. It is imperative that we fully fund this crucial legislation or we will have placed an unfunded mandate on cash-strapped states."