WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) participated in a media conference call today with House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (OH) on the landmark election reform legislation, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and the first test of its implementation in the New Hampshire presidential primary this Tuesday.
In New Hampshire, voter identification requirements will be in place. Nationally, provisional balloting is also a requirement but will not affect New Hampshire because the state uses a same day voter registration system.
The nation will inevitably recall the problems of the 2000 presidential election as New Hampshire holds its first-in-the-nation primary and closely watch the state’s registration and voting procedures to see to what degree it has used resources made available under HAVA to improve its election system.
On February 3, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina will also hold primaries. With the exception of Missouri, all of these states either had to implement or amend voter identification procedures due to the requirements of HAVA. First time voters who register by mail must now show identification when they register or cast ballots. It will be essential for poll workers to apply the new ID procedure in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner.
In addition, Delaware and Oklahoma will use provisional ballots for the first time.
Regarding voter technology, Missouri will generally be using the same punch card machines it did in 2000 and South Carolina will use them in 10 counties. While 9 counties in Arizona that used punch cards in 2000 will now use opti-scan machines for the first time. Representatives Ney and Hoyer, and the newly established Election Assistance Commission (which was established by HAVA), will monitor the results of these elections closely.
Below are Mr. Hoyer’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery:
“As Chairman Ney has remarked, Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire is the first real test of our efforts to reform our election system. The 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida spurred us to action three years ago, but election systems throughout the country were rife with inaccuracies and errors.
“And it is more important than ever that we continue to aggressively pursue election reform. The polls show that this nation continues to be divided 50-50, so we can expect many close elections this year – including the 2004 presidential election.
“With the passage of the fiscal year 2004 omnibus appropriations bill yesterday, $2.8 billion has been appropriated of the $3.6 billion that was authorized under the Help America Vote Act. Considering the budget constraints that we face in this era of deficits, I am proud that we have been able to secure significant amounts of funding the past two fiscal years. And Chairman Ney and I are determined to secure the final $800 million necessary to fully fund the act in the fiscal year 2005 appropriations process.
“We will also continue to monitor the progress of the newly established Election Assistance Commission and to make sure that it has the resources to do its job. This commission will be essential in assisting states implement the minimum standards required by HAVA and will make the reform of our election system much more effective. The Commission will also be essential in establishing the college program designed to give grants to colleges to recruit and train students to serve as poll workers. This will help instill a sense of civic spirit in young people and hopefully increase voter participation in the years to come.
“Finally, the commission will also play an important role in exploring other election reform issues such as the current concern regarding electronic voting. While the EAC establishes itself, my amendment in the omnibus bill to allow the General Services Administration to distribute preliminary grants will allow money already appropriated to continue to flow to the states.
“After the 2004 elections, we look forward to the implementation of the remaining minimum standards, such as state-wide voter registration systems, which are crucial to ensuring fair elections.
“2004 will be full of important tests for our democracy, beginning this Tuesday in New Hampshire and ending with the presidential election in November. The Help America Vote Act will help states meet those tests and guarantee the most basic right of our democracy to their citizens – to vote and have that vote count.”