Utilization of HAVA Election Funding by States
April 1, 2023
Kathy Boockvar and Ashish Sinha
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted in 2002 in response to challenges to election administration identified following the 2000 election. Between 2018 – 2022, Congress appropriated several grants including CARES Act Funds in 2020 and Election Security Funds in 2018, 2020, and 2022.
- During the eighteen years between 2003 and September 30, 2021, a total of $4.15 billion in federal funds has been awarded to states and territories, most of which was utilized to replace outdated voting systems.1
- 85% of funds appropriated have already been spent 2
- The 2018 – 2022 appropriations were the first new federal funds made available to states since 2010.3
- Federal Election Funding has been Robustly Utilized by Election Officials: 85% of the federal funds states received were spent by the end of 2021. Even the recent Election Security Funds appropriated in 2018, 2020, and 2022, which were often utilized for complex, multi-year projects, have already been nearly half spent, and remaining funds have largely been set aside and earmarked for specific known future needs.
- Procurement Takes Time: Often, legislatures must first accept and appropriate the required matching funds in state budgets before an elections agency can spend them. States and local jurisdictions must follow their competitive bidding processes. RFPs must be developed and issued. Vendors must be given time to respond. Bids need to be evaluated. Awards could be protested or challenged. As a result, when federal funding is not known ahead of time, states are not able to plan and budget ahead of time, and it can take years before a contract is awarded and funds begin to be spent down.
- Security, Technology, Training, and Services are not one-time expenditures: States have entered into long-term contracts where their expenditures may not be fully realized until several years later. States will keep funds in their account to pay for these long-term obligations, including annual maintenance costs for statewide voter registration systems and voting technology.
- Supply Chain Issues: The supply chain for election equipment and materials has faced challenges, which leads to longer timelines for states to successfully enter into contracts with vendors and spend down their grants.
- Election Officials are Chronically Understaffed: Bandwidth for election officials during presidential election cycles is already challenging and, during and following the 2020 cycle in the face of COVID-19, the ability for states and local jurisdictions to take on major upgrades to election infrastructure was even more limited. This highlights the need for consistent, known funding for personnel and operations in election offices.
- Louisiana: Due to state guidelines and regulations regarding Request for Proposals, the Secretary of State has not yet secured a contract for the procurement of a new electronic voting system; therefore, no expenditures have been made during the reporting period ending on September 30, 2022. Currently, the department is working with the Louisiana Legislature to help clarify these matters of law and will use their unspent HAVA funds to complete the procurement when permitted. (See Louisiana Financial and Progress Reports – Fiscal Year 2022 Annual, Section III: Challenges and Changes, Questions 12-13)
- Maine: The Secretary of State is replacing the state’s centralized voter registration system, increasing the security and modernization of their systems. With the contract awarded in 2022, the state will have substantial expenditures over the next few years to successfully implement the new system. (See Maine Financial and Progress Reports – Fiscal Year 2022 Annual, Section II: Progress and Narrative, Question 6)
- Nevada: The state issued an RFP in March 2021 for an “assessment” vendor to help identify the needs for a new top-down voter registration and election management system. The selected vendor began work in mid-September 2021. The vendor has now completed the system needs assessment and the state has decided to purchase a commercial off the shelf system. The state is currently working with the purchasing division to pursue a contract for the system based on an in-place RFP. (See Nevada Financial and Progress Reports – Fiscal Year 2022 Annual, Section II: Progress and Narrative, Question 6)
- Oregon: The state issued an RFP in 2020 to replace Oregon’s centralized voter registration system. The contract was awarded later that year; however, expenditures are being paid over time and therefore will be realized over time. The state is also currently experiencing vendor-related delays with the agreed upon development schedule. (See Oregon Financial and Progress Reports – Fiscal Year 2022 Annual, Section III: Challenges and Changes, Question 12)
- Virginia: All funds have been earmarked specifically to replace their statewide voter registration and election management system. A vendor was selected after the Fall 2022 reporting period. The new system will be in development over the next 30 months. (See Virginia Financial and Progress Reports – Fiscal Year 2022 Annual, Section II: Progress and Narrative, Question 6)
1 2021 Grant Expenditure Report. Election Assistance Commission. Published July 22, 2022. Accessed on March 31, 2023. Page 3. Link