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”) and a senior Democrat on the Transportation, Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding funding for election reform contained in the House Fiscal Year 2004 Transportation, Treasury Appropriations bill approved by the House this evening:
“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. Unfortunately, the Administration and Republican Leaders have not followed their rhetorical support with financial support.
“In his Fiscal Year 2004 budget, President Bush called for only $500 million in funding for election reform, even though the Help America Vote Act authorized $1 billion for grants to states, payments to states and localities to ensure the disabled have access to polling places, and funding for the Election Assistance Commission. The Transportation, Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee followed the President’s lead and included only the $500 million that he proposed in the FY04 budget.
“Simply put, the current funding for election reform won’t do the job. It falls far short of the funding that was authorized in this legislation, which was one of the few bills that passed by a large bipartisan margin last year. And it means that Americans will go to the polls in yet another election where there is no guarantee that every citizen’s vote will count.
“In addition, the Administration must show a stronger commitment to election reform by nominating the four-member Election Assistance Commission immediately, if this nation is to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election debacle.
“I am pleased, however, that the bill includes a provision authorizing the General Services Administration to disburse election reform grants on a short-term, interim basis so that the money that is appropriated will quickly reach the states.
“After 200 years of relying on the states to fund federal elections, we made a promise to the states that the efforts to address the most serious deficiencies in their election systems would not turn into another unfunded federal mandate. We cannot break that promise.”