An update on the Help
America Vote Act
October 28, 2003
In September 2003, Minnesota
submitted its plan to implement the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
for federal review. The intent of Congress was for the State to incorporate
public input gathered this summer from a preliminary draft of Minnesota's
"It is encouraging to
see how many Minnesotans actually took time out of their busy days
to comment on a plan that most certainly needed more public input," said
FairVote Minnesota Vice Chair Jim Cousins. "It is also encouraging
to see that almost 80 percent of all the public input spoke to election
improvements advocated by FairVote Minnesota."
Unfortunately, the revised
plan does not incorporate most of this input. Of the 348 comments
received, 184 dealt with allowing for Instant Runoff Voting tabulation
capabilities (106) and the study of alternative voting systems (78)
including Instant Runoff Voting. Yet Secretary Kiffmeyer chose not
to incorporate this citizen input into the HAVA plan. As a result,
over 52 percent of the public comments to the plan were ignored.
office states that comments supporting voting alternatives were taken
into account, but is quick to say that Instant Runoff Voting is not
authorized by state law and that the Secretary is limited to administering
existing law. "That response overlooks the fact that the entire purpose
of the federal Help America Vote Act was to stimulate recommendations
to reform elections and make improvements to the status quo," said
FairVote's Jim Cousins.
Other parts of the State
Plan submitted by Secretary Kiffmeyer do propose changes to state
law, including changes to election equipment certification standards
which her office said it was not authorized to seek with regard to
Instant Runoff Voting. This does raise the question of why the Secretary
gave lesser consideration to alternative voting methods, especially
considering this was the subject that dominated public comments.
"The public's request
was legitimate and realistic," said Cousins, "especially considering
most of the comments related to zero cost opportunities to ensure
Instant Runoff Voting capabilities or the study of possible improvement
to Minnesota's system; both of which are clearly allowed for in the
funding of HAVA."
Of the remaining comments
to the plan, the bulk (92) dealt with voter security and auditing
issues by suggesting a record of each ballot when using electronic
equipment, one of the principal points of FairVote Minnesota's advocacy.
Another block of comments (13) advocated on behalf of the accessibility
community and concerns to the draft plan.
"Secretary Kiffmeyer should
be applauded for her responsiveness on the topic of electronic voting
machine auditing, but taken to task for failing to act consistently
when asked by her constituents to do the same for alternative voting
methods," said Cousins. "The final HAVA plan submitted by Secretary
Kiffmeyer for Minnesota is not substantially different than the draft
Minnesotans commented on in July. It misses some major opportunities
for improving democracy in this state. Perhaps it is more aptly named
the 'Hope' America Votes Act."
Minnesota's plan now goes
before the federal government for review. The Election Assistance
Commission charged with overseeing this review and approval process
is currently being assembled. FairVote Minnesota will continue to
monitor that process and report on opportunities to influence it.