TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 14, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 770 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 5025.
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, following on the comments of the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), I rise to express my disappointment that this bill does not fully fund the amounts authorized in the Help America Vote Act for Fiscal Year 2005. We were proud to pass, on the eve of the 2002 election, ground-breaking election reform legislation that authorized almost $4 billion in Federal funding that would, among other things, improve the administration of elections; provide for increased accessibility to voting equipment and polling places for people with physical disabilities; fund the replacement of obsolete voting equipment; pay for protection and advocacy systems; provide for the establishment of State-based administrative procedures to remedy grievances, including grievances pertaining to accessibility; call for the establishment of an Election Assistance Commission to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information and review procedures with respect to the administration of Federal elections; and to call for the establishment of a Standards Board, a Board of Advisors and a Technical Guidelines Development Committee, all of which would assist in the development of good voting systems.
Although over the past couple of years I have been primarily focused on standards for voting systems, specifically the lack of meaningful security standards for such systems, the Help America Vote Act funded many important things. And considering how important it is to our democracy to have fair, accessible, auditable elections and considering how many doubts citizens have had about elections in recent years, I am deeply disappointed that this appropriations bill provides so little HAVA funding, only $15 million, a pittance on the amount yet to be funded authorized under HAVA. Fifteen million dollars provided in this bill, leaving unappropriated more than $700 million of HAVA's total $4 billion in authorized sums.
The absence of consistent funding for HAVA has caused a fundamental problem; namely, that Federal funding of election systems outpaced the critical need for implementation of meaningful security standards. The Committee on Appropriations recognizes this. With respect to the $15 million appropriated for the Election Assistance Commission, $5 million is specified "to address the desperate need for research and standardization of election systems." The committee urged the EAC to "address standards and technology issues related to voting equipment." That is their quote. But the committee does not provide adequate funding. Forty million dollars was authorized to fund the protection and advocacy systems to ensure full participation in the election process for individuals with disabilities. Less than a third of that amount has been appropriated. One hundred million dollars was authorized to fund polling place accessibility and education and outreach to disabled voters. Only about a third, less than a third of that, has been appropriated. HAVA has called for the establishment of a Help America Vote college program and Help America Vote high school program. Each of those has received only about half of the authorized amount. HAVA called for $3 billion in payments to States to help them meet their audit trail, accessibility, language and other voting system requirements, and we fall far short of the appropriations in that category.
HAVA, I believe, will have to be amended. There are some improvements that need to be made. But that is no excuse for not fully funding this central part of the American democratic system to make sure that we have fair, accessible, and auditable elections.
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