Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA): an overview

(updated 2002)

In the aftermath of the 2000 election and its many logistical issues, congress passed a bipartisan measure, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), in order to reform many facets of the voting process and increase voter education and turnout. Its goals include the replacement of voting machines, voter registration reform, better access to voting for the disabled and poll worker training. Congress set a date by which each goal must be completed, and provided federal funds to help with the process as long as they implement a plan and allocate a small amount of state funds to the effort. In addition, HAVA has successfully created the Election Assistance Commission in order to better facilitate federal elections.

Election Improvements

HAVA provides funds in order for states to replace outdated voting machines, create a system of provisional balloting, create a computerized voter registration system, train poll workers and change election day procedures. Provisional balloting allows a person who's name does not appear on the voter roll to cast a ballot which will be reviewed and checked later on. New election day procedures improve access for the disabled and require that a new voter who registered by mail show identification the first time that they vote.

In addition, as a result of HAVA, a new federal voter registration form was created in order to make it easier for a new voters to register. In addition, if someone fills out a provisional ballot, and it is rejected as a ballot for the current election, it will serve as a voter registration form for the next election. New voting equipment is required to give the voter a "second chance" meaning that if there is a possible mistake on the ballot, they must be notified about it before leaving the polling place.

HAVA also calls for more voter education, a "Voters Bill of Rights" to be posted in all polling places, election day registration and the ability for anyone to request an absentee ballot for any reason.

Although many of the goals were set to be completed before the 2004 elections, the ultimate goals of HAVA are set to be completed before the 2006 elections.

Election Assistance Commission

The Election Assistance Commission was created in order to help facilitate federal elections. The Commission is responsible for guiding states in their compliance with HAVA and helping to pursue the specific objectives that HAVA states.

The Commission is responsible for researching matters that relate to elections, managing funds related to grants and other special projects related to HAVA, developing a system for testing election systems throughout the country, creating the aforementioned national voter registration form and creating annual progress reports for Congress.