What is HAVA?
In 2002, the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was signed by Congress and passed by President George W. Bush. This legislation requires all 50 states to upgrade election systems nationwide, protect the integrity of elections, and promote public awareness and participation in the electoral process.
What changes does HAVA require?
HAVA was passed in an effort to improve voting standards across the country and ensure that each polling place in America has accessible voting systems in place. It is the most sweeping voting initiative the country has seen in four decades. Among the central requirements that states must implement by 2006 are:
The Secretary of State is the chief election officer of the state and is responsible for managing a HAVA-compliant “State Plan” that ensures the state and its counties will meet the new requirements. The Arkansas State Plan’s priorities are to:
- A centralized statewide voter registration list
- Improved voting systems and technology for casting and counting votes, especially to replace punch card, lever and hand-counted ballots.
- Improved accessibility for disabled voters and assistance to English as second-language dominant voters
- Education program to inform voters about voting procedures, voting rights and voting technology
- Training for election officials, poll workers and election volunteers
- Provisional voting, which helps voters be sure their valid ballots are counted.
What is Arkansas doing to make the changes HAVA requires?
- Upgrade existing voting systems or purchase new systems to include at least one electronic voting machine at each polling place
- Develop a centralized, statewide voter registration list that can verify voters’ identification and be accurately updated
- Implement a voter education program to educate citizens on voting systems and the proper use of those voting systems
Didn’t Arkansas already have a central voter registration system?
Arkansas first instituted a statewide voter registration system in 1996. Although it standardized the process for recording voter data, the mechanism essentially performed as 75 separate systems using the same software. County clerks maintained their own information and could not share data across county lines, making it more difficult to track voters who moved within the state. New HAVA regulations required Arkansas to upgrade its voter system to become a secure, uniform, centralized database of registered voters that is defined, maintained and administered by the state.
The new Web-based voter registration software streamlines data management by creating a centralized system. Known as the Network of Voters in Arkansas (NOVA), it allows county clerks to update voter rolls throughout Arkansas, instantly transfer voters from county to county and eliminate duplicate registrations. That helps improve the security and accuracy of the state’s voter rolls.
What voting systems have been selected for use in the state of Arkansas?
Election Systems and Software was chosen as the vendor for new equipment across Arkansas. Each county chose the type of system that would work best for their voters. Depending on your county’s choice, when you go to the polls you will vote on a touch screen, on a paper ballot or have the option to vote by either method.
What voting system will be in use in my county?
Click here to find a map of the State of Arkansas, then click on your county to find out about the equipment you’ll be using at your polling site.
Who is paying for all this new equipment and outreach?
Federal funding, through the HAVA, is paying for 95 percent of the initial costs of Arkansas’s new machines and related education and training programs. State and county funds will make up the remaining five percent
Why is the State of Arkansas conducting a voter education program?
Nearly every Arkansas voter already possesses the knowledge, experience and ability needed to cast a valid ballot. There are a small number of voters, however, who may experience difficulty in casting a valid ballot in the primary and general election because of lack of experience or information. The goal of the Vote Naturally program is to reduce the potential for difficulties on Election Day by giving all Arkansas voters the information they need to get them ready to vote. The program will encourage voters to find out when they will vote, where they will vote, and how to use the voting equipment in their precincts.
What does the voter education program include?
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s education initiative plans to make voter information readily available to all Arkansans, create high-impact educational materials and advertisements, and most importantly, instill confidence in voting. Vote Naturally, Arkansas’s voter education program, will continuously run throughout 2006, concluding after the November General Election.
The goals of Vote Naturally are to:
- Educate voters on how to use voting systems, when elections are held and where to vote
- Inform Arkansans on the legalities, responsibilities and rights of voting
- Increase confidence in voting through a safe and more secure voting system
The public education program informs voters of their rights and responsibilities, educates them on how to use voting machines and increases confidence in our state’s electoral process. The plan includes advertising, presentations to community groups, a Web site and a mobile exhibit. The mobile exhibit will cover much of the state stopping at festivals, special events, schools and other public venues. Inside the exhibit there are examples of electronic voting machines used in Arkansas. Voters will have the opportunity to see, touch and become comfortable with using the machines before Election Day.
For a schedule of Vote Naturally programs, click here.
How are the needs of the disabled being addressed?
It is critically important that all Arkansas voters have equal opportunity on Election Day. The Office of the Secretary of State has addressed the needs of physically challenged voters to ensure that they can fully participate in the process by installing accessible voting machines and providing grants to counties to make polls accessible.
Is there a way for voters to learn how to use the new machine before Election Day?
Yes. A comprehensive voter education program is underway across Arkansas. Written step-by-step instructions will be distributed to voters and voters will be able to practice with sample machines at various locations across Arkansas prior to Election Day.