Some states not applying for federal voting funds
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – Six states and territories are missing out on tens of millions of dollars in federal money to upgrade voting systems because they haven’t applied for it, federal officials said Tuesday.
The money is part of $2.3 billion available under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to help states meet new voting equipment requirements by 2006. Those requirements include allowing voters to check and change their ballots and providing machines for disabled people to vote unassisted.
As of last Friday, nearly $1.4 billion of the money had been distributed. States are using the money to buy new voting machines and for other improvements.
But Alaska, Illinois, New York, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands – which are in line to share $250 million – have not yet applied for the funds, U.S. Election Assistance Commission officials said. The issue arose Tuesday at a meeting of the commission, which was created by the 2002 election law and is responsible for distributing the money.
“It is surprising and disappointing that we do have any states, regardless of who they are, that we have any states that still have not asked us for distribution of this money,” Commissioner Ray Martinez said after the meeting. “Obviously our preference is for the states to receive this money and to do it as quickly as possible.”
Four other states – Hawaii, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah – have applied for their allotment of nearly $67 million in federal funding and are awaiting approval of their applications.
There’s no single reason the six states and territories haven’t applied for the money, commission officials said. Some are having trouble coming up with the required 5 percent funding match. Others are short staffed or cannot yet certify that they meet federal requirements, including having an administrative complaint procedure in place for voters.
In Illinois, according to the state Board of Elections, the Legislature failed until recently to come up with the 5 percent match that would make the state eligible for nearly $100 million. There were other holdups too, but the board’s executive director, Daniel White, said the state is now ready to apply for the money and will do so as soon as this week.
“It would have been nicer to have it sooner had the Legislature acted more quickly, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem,” White said.
On the Net:
Election Assistance Commission: http://www.eac.gov