Report: What Hath HAVA Wrought?

Charles Stewart III, presented a fascinating report earlier this spring at a conference, Bush v Gore, 10 Years Later: Election Administration in the United States.. .The report, in draft form, as presented: What Hath HAVA Wrought? Consequences, Intended and Not, of the Post-Bush v. Gore Reforms <read>

It is forty-two pages, double spaced, yet engaging throughout. In addition to describing HAVA and its implications, the report covers the political process which resulted in a useful, yet insufficient response to the issues raised in 2000.  We are left with several thoughts generated by reading the report. (These are our thoughts based on our interpretation of the fascinating details in the report. In general they are consistent with the report, yet our conclusions and interpretations go beyond those in the report.):

  • Like the Patriot Act rushed through after 911, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in a crisis window of opportunity to fix exposed problems and also to enact longstanding wish lists for reform. Little has happened to election reform efforts at a national level since HAVA and it seems that actual state election integrity improvement legislation and activity has similarly tapered off, except in the wake of a state crisis now and then.
  • We can expect the same in the aftermath of last November in Bridgeport. The current reforms viewed as less than ideal by the Coalition and the Secretary of the State are likely all we will see from that incident.
  • The report reminds us how strong the calls for machines to allow the independent voting for voters with disabilities were five years ago. And how little we hear from that community to fix Connecticut’s inadequate IVS system.  The report identifies that the real issue for voters with disabilities seems to be physical access to the polling place rather than accommodating machines.
  • It seems there never was much attention paid to electoral accounting and recounting which were at the core of Gore v Bush decision.  (See our testimony on the NPV earlier this year especially page 6) Even in election integrity circles presidential electoral accounting continues to be largely unknown.
  • The report confirms our concerns with disenfranchisement represented by increased mail-in and unlimited absentee balloting.
  • Generally, election officials have pushed for unlimited absentee voting because they claim it saves money, while in Connecticut town clerks opposed increased absentee voting based on estimated higher costs. It is an interesting open issue less critical than the risks vs. turnout implications of mail voting.
  • The report highlights the continuing neglect of voting administration, especially when compared to other government functions. Would the public stand for birth records, drivers licenses, or criminal records with the errors pervasive in voter registration lists?  Would they accept Federal Reserve, weapons, or virus research security as weak as ballot security? Why do we accept such weak security and integrity in voting?
  • We are struck with be lack of balance between election integrity, the promise of counting every vote, vs. the rush to have results and move on quickly after every election. This effects accuracy, overseas voting, and presidential accounting.
  • Not covered in the report is any discussion of the role of vendors in HAVA. We recall tales of much vendor involvement with Congress. Following the money, it seems to us that the reforms that were enacted were those that result in spending: for new voting machines, for special machines for disabled voters, and centralized voter registration systems. Reforms improving the lot of or requiring more work on the part of officials seem to be neglected unless they were a consequence of the large vendor expenditures.
  • Three Billion for HAVA seems like real money.  But it is a few days at war or a day or so of deficit which might depend on which person is elected President or Senator.  It is equal to the deficit we are dealing with in Connecticut, the solution to which is dependent on who is Governor.

This report is recommended reading.  It also suggest that we should read and report on some of the other papers delivered at the same conference.


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