OLYMPIA - Washington’s State Elections Division has achieved something no other state can claim – a clean audit for how it has used federal funding for elections.
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 was created in response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
The HAVA goals are to replace punch card voting systems, create the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help in the administration of federal elections, provide voting equipment that is accessible to voters with disabilities, and set minimum election administration standards.
HAVA mandates that all states and localities upgrade many aspects of their election procedures, such as voting machines, voter registration and poll worker training. It is up to each state to implement the mandates’ specifics. HAVA allocates federal funds to states for them to use in implementing the law’s mandates.
“It’s remarkable that Washington is the first state to receive a clean audit for how it uses and implements its HAVA funding,” said State Elections Director Nick Handy. “This is a tremendous honor. It really reflects well on Secretary of State Sam Reed, our Elections Division staff and especially our County Auditors throughout the state.”
Handy praised state HAVA coordinator Lori Guerrero and her assistant, Brigitta Wulfekuhle, for their work in helping ensure a perfect audit for the state.
“Lori and Brigitta really deserve much of the credit for our outstanding HAVA audit,” Handy said. “They did an incredible job of making sure we spent the HAVA funding as intended. And the counties did a wonderful job of managing the HAVA funds granted directly to them.”
Through June 2008, Washington received a little more than $68 million in HAVA funding, including a state match of nearly $2.5 million. The funds were used for many purposes, including voting systems; voter education; training of election officials, poll workers and volunteers; the statewide voter registration database; punch card replacements; and updated voter registration forms.
Washington and its counties spent nearly $30.4 million, or 46 percent, on HAVA-required funding allocations. Of that amount, counties spent more than $21.1 million while the state spent about $9.2 million.
Once HAVA’s requirements were met, states and counties could use HAVA funds for other programs and products that improve federal elections administration. Nearly $35.6 million (54 percent of available HAVA funds) were allocated toward discretionary goals, including improving accessibility in elections for individuals with disabilities, producing local Voters’ Pamphlets, upgrading existing tabulation equipment, purchasing and installing ballot drop boxes, training elections officials, and purchasing other equipment that will improve the administration of elections.
“After we received the HAVA funds, most of our counties went to vote by mail,” Handy said. “This allowed our HAVA Grant Advisory Board to spend the discretional funds on a variety of goals and items that have helped improve our state’s elections system in the past four years.”
The Election Assistance Commission’s Office of Inspector General issued the final report earlier this week. The report concluded that Washington’s Office of Secretary of State accounted for and spent HAVA funds in accordance with the law’s requirements over a period from 2003 through 2007.
The performance audit was conducted by Clifton Gunderson LLP.
The report can be accessed here.