Help America Vote Act produces changes in election process

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Landmark election reform legislation produced the Help American Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, impacting local officials and citizens in the upcoming election procedures.

Nancy Amick, Rio County's Clerk and Recorder, said new federal mandates include education and outreach programs, and more accessibility for impaired voters to "vote independently and privately."

According to HAVA documents, "real and perceived problems" in the November 2000 election resulted in legislation passed by Congress, which was signed by President Bush in October.

Amick said elections used to be primarily state administered but now more federal insight is being put in place. She said although it is a new process, she feels it's good the federal government stepped in to facilitate issues such as replacing voting equipment.

A state legislative declaration states in response to new federal mandates, "in order that its requirements may be effectively and uniformly implemented, HAVA mandated a greater role for the state governments, and in particular, the chief election official of each state in overseeing and coordinating elections."

Amick said elections have become "more complex" and because the county has to conduct elections, costs will inevitably come back to the county. Federal mandates don't always carry adequate funding.

"Money that has to go to elections will not be available for other county needs," Amick said.

She said one significant provision of the act is to replace old "punch card/lever machines" in all counties statewide. Because those machines were replaced in 1993 in Rio Blanco County, that does not apply. Funding is available to those counties to whom it does apply, Amick said.

All of the voting system's standards are still in process, and Amick said full economic impact is

yet unknown.

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