FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OUTLINES STRATEGY FOR EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF ELECTION REFORM LAW FOR 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Justice Department today outlined its strategy for vigorous enforcement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) in anticipation of the 2004 federal elections. HAVA applies to all elections for federal office in the fifty-five U.S. states and territories, including primaries and general elections. The election reform law signed by President George W. Bush in October 2002 establishes uniform federal voting standards, several of which take effect on January 1, 2004. Primary enforcement responsibility for HAVA lies with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Today, the Division discussed its strategy for ensuring state compliance.
“The Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement to ensure that all Americans enjoy the benefits of the Help America Vote Act,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division has been actively assisting state and local jurisdictions with implementation of HAVA’s requirements, so that each jurisdiction will be ready to comply with the law by the first round of federal elections. However, should it become necessary, we can and will take the necessary legal steps to ensure full compliance.”
Since HAVA’s enactment, the Justice Department has engaged in an extensive effort to promote pre-enforcement compliance. The Civil Rights Division has worked with state and local officials to educate them about the law. The Division has also communicated with every Governor, state Attorney General, and chief state election official regarding HAVA’s requirements, and has offered each assistance. Over the past year, Division attorneys have monitored the states’ implementation efforts, attended and made HAVA presentations at numerous meetings of election officials, responded to inquiries from state and local officials about HAVA’s requirements and constructed a HAVA information page available at <http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/hava/hava.html>.
Several of HAVA’s requirements take effect on January 1, 2004. As of their first federal election, states must have made the necessary arrangements and legal preparations to comply with HAVA’s requirements governing provisional voting, identification of mail-in voters, provision of voter information, and establishment of accessible computerized statewide voter registration lists. States may request for good cause a waiver until 2006 of the requirement to implement a computerized statewide voter registration list - 37 covered jurisdictions have done so to date. The Civil Rights Division will continue to review states’ compliance efforts with these provisions. To the extent that any covered jurisdiction falls short of full implementation, the Division will work with the jurisdiction to ensure compliance. If such efforts fail, HAVA authorizes the Attorney General to seek any necessary declaratory or injunctive relief.
In addition to establishing uniform federal standards for states and territories to follow, HAVA created the Election Assistance Commission to assist jurisdictions with election reform. On December 9, 2003, the Senate confirmed President George W. Bush’s four nominees to the Commission.
“We look forward to working with the commissioners as they take up their important duties at the Election Assistance Commission,” said Assistant Attorney General Acosta.
HAVA authorizes significant funds to assist states in implementing its requirements. During fiscal year 2003, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion for HAVA implementation - of which the federal government has already distributed just under $665 million - an additional $830 million in fiscal year 2003 funding will be distributed to the states next year. HAVA appropriations for the current fiscal year are currently pending.