Q: What is the Help America Vote Act?
A: Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in October 2002 making sweeping reforms to the nation's voting process. The Act addressed much needed improvements to voting systems and voter access that were identified following the 2000 Presidential Election. It includes provisions for replacement of punchcard and lever voting systems, creation of a centralized voter registration database, new voter identification requirements, access for people with disabilities, and enhanced voter outreach.
Q: What does the Act require?
A: There are two main components to HAVA: (1) overall improvements to elections administration, which can be done at the discretion of each state as funding allows and (2) specific mandates set forth in HAVA. Under HAVA, the State of Colorado is required to:
- Provide voters with information on the effect of overvoting, how to correct their ballots and how to request a replacement ballot.
- Have voting systems that produce a permanent paper record with manual audit capacity.
- Provide at least one accessible Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting system per polling place in the state to provide enhanced access to the voting process for people with disabilities.
- Comply with the Federal Election Commission's standards for voting equipment error rates.
- Define uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for what constitutes a vote.
- Provide a process for allowing voters to cast provisional ballots.
- Establish a toll-free line allowing voters who have cast provisional ballots to check to see whether their vote was counted or not, and if not counted, why not.
- Implement by January 1, 2006 a "uniform, official, centralized, interactive, computerized statewide voter registration list" that is defined, maintained, and administered at the state level.
- Implement new identification requirements for first-time voters who register by mail (requires voters to submit copies of a valid photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, or government document with their registration form or their ballot).
Q: How much funding was made available to help states meet the requirements?
A: The Act allowed separate federal appropriations for specific purposes. The first source, "early out" funding, was provided for replacement of punchcard and lever voting systems and for making discretionary improvements to the elections process. These funds required no state matching funds. The second and largest source of funding was titled a “requirements payment” to help states meet the mandates of HAVA. States were required to provide five percent matching funds in order to receive their requirements payment. Prior to receiving funding, states had to submit a written plan outlining the activities they planned to undertake to comply with HAVA, as well as how they planned to spend the federal funds appropriated to them. A third source of funding was appropriated through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) via grants to states specifically for disability access improvements.
The total amount actually received by Colorado and other states was approximately 20 percent less than the law appropriated. Colorado’s apportioned amount (excluding accessibility grants) was $41,582,761. It is not expected that any additional funds will be forthcoming.
Q: How has Colorado used, or will use, the money it received?
A: States are required to meet the mandates of HAVA whether or not full federal funding is provided. So congressional staff members urged states to use the "early out" discretionary funds to meet the requirements placed on the state and counties by the new law. Colorado intends to fund discretionary improvements only after the HAVA requirements have been met. The following activities will be funded initially:
- Replacement of punch card voting systems
- Purchase of accessible DREs for polling places in the state
- Colorado centralized voter registration system
- Voter education and elections staff training on Title III requirements (includes a statewide toll-free line)
Q: What are the financial responsibilities of the state and the counties?
A: The state has been paying the costs of each of the four activities listed above using the available federal funding and the State’s match (approximately $1.7 million). The state will be responsible for the cost of maintaining the centralized voter registration system and the toll-free line and for the implementation of the HAVA requirements. Counties will be required to share in the costs of, and maintain the replacement of, their punchcard systems and to maintain and replace their accessible DREs after the initial purchase. Both the counties and the state have funded training activities, which have been conducted by the state. Since federal funding was less than expected to meet the mandates, it is possible the state may have to seek funding from other funding sources in the state.
Q: What is Colorado doing to prepare to meet the federal requirements?
A: Upon passage of the Act, the Secretary of State appointed a HAVA Steering Committee made up of county elections clerks, state elections division staff, legislators and various stakeholders of the elections process. The Steering Committee was responsible for recommending what should be included in the State Plan that had to be submitted to the federal government in order to receive requirements funding. The Secretary of State also introduced legislation that made all the necessary changes to Colorado Revised Statutes to allow compliance with HAVA.
Q: How will Colorado's elections process change as a result of HAVA?
A: The biggest changes as a result of HAVA are improved integrity of voter registration data through a centralized database and new identification requirements, enhanced access to the voting process by people with disabilities, and improved information and instructions that help voters understand how to cast a valid ballot, and how to get assistance in participating in the voting process.
Q: Does HAVA require that we have voting equipment accessible for voters with disabilities?
A: Yes. Under HAVA, each polling place must contain a voting system that is accessible for individuals with disabilities, including for visually impaired voters, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for accessibility and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.
Q: Will HAVA’s Alternative Voting Technology requirements affect all precincts in the state?
A: Not necessarily. Where more than one precinct’s voters cast their ballots at the same polling place, one piece of alternative voting technology can serve all voters at that polling place.
Q: Why must we have new voting equipment for the blind when we have always had provisions for them to vote?
A: Our existing procedures for visually impaired voters require them to tell another person how they wish to vote. HAVA requires that they be provided the same privacy, independence, and access in voting that is provided for “seeing” voters.
Q: How will we be able to verify that the new equipment accurately recorded voters’ selections?
A: As with existing voting equipment, accuracy testing will verify the ability of the voting equipment to accurately record and count ballots.
Q: Will new voting equipment make it clear to me exactly who I voted for before I cast my vote?
A: Yes. HAVA requires that any new voting equipment allow voters to verify their choices privately and independently before their ballots are cast and counted. Voting equipment certified for use in Colorado by the office of the Secretary of State will assure that vote choices are clear to voters when they verify their votes.
Voters with Disabilities FAQs
Q: I have a mental disability. Are there any restrictions on my right to vote in Colorado?
A: No. Colorado does not have any disability-related restrictions on the right to vote of any person with a disability.
Q: I use a wheelchair. In the past, I have found my polling place to be inaccessible for me. What can I do?
A: State and federal laws require that every polling place be accessible effective January 1, 2006. If you find that your polling place is not accessible, make your local election official aware of the issues. You may also file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State. Information about the complaint process is available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, HAVA Complaint Process.
The county clerk for the county where you are registered is required to send you a voter information card at least 25 days before the General Election telling you the location of your polling place. If you did not receive your voter information card, or cannot find it, you should call your county clerk and recorder or election commission to request information on the location of your polling place.
Many counties provide polling place information on their websites. In the near future, information about the accessibility of your polling place and directions on how to get there will be available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Go Vote Colorado.
Q: Do I have to provide documentation of my disability if I want to vote by absentee ballot?
A: Colorado is a “no excuse” absentee ballot state. You may vote by absentee ballot if you are unable to go to the polls or choose not to go to the polls on Election Day. You do not have to provide any reasons for choosing to vote by absentee ballot. Applications for absentee ballots may be filed with your clerk and recorder any time after January 1 of that election year.
Absentee ballot application forms are available from the Colorado Secretary of State's website or your county clerk and recorder or election commission office. Your application must be submitted in writing to your local county clerk and recorder. This application can be used for all elections during that calendar year. You must reapply for an absentee ballot each year that you choose to vote absentee.
If you wish to receive your absentee ballot by mail, you must apply no later than the close of business on the seventh day before the election. You may also apply in person to your county clerk and recorder's or election commission's office no later than the Friday prior to the election.
To be counted, absentee ballots must be received by the county clerk and recorder's or election commission's office not later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. If you did not mail your absentee ballot in enough time to meet the deadline, you must deliver it to your county clerk and recorder or election commission office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
If you apply for an absentee ballot, but spoil it or cannot cast it for other reasons, you may vote by provisional ballot at the polling place, vote center or early voter’s polling place, if you affirm under oath that you have not and will not cast the absentee ballot. Early voters’ polling places and vote centers must be fully accessible.
Q: I use a walker and have great difficulty walking more than 200 feet without sitting down to rest. My polling place is in a building that has designated accessible parking and an accessible entrance. However, the actual polling place within the building is located a significant distance from the entrance closest to the parking lot. What can I do?
A: You might consider informing your county clerk and recorder about this problem. They may be able to relocate the polling place within the building. If this isn't feasible, they may be able to place a chair or bench along the route so that you can rest.
Q: I have a reading disability and have trouble reading and understanding what is printed on my ballot. I would like to be able to vote privately and without help, just like everyone else. What are my rights?
A: The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and Colorado laws require that voters with disabilities be able to cast their vote privately and without assistance. Each county has purchased accessible voting machines to be used in every polling place election. These new voting machines use assistive and adaptive technology to provide the opportunity for voters with a wide range of disabilities to vote privately and independently.
Q: What can I do if I believe that my voting rights have been violated?
A: You have the option of filing an election complaint directly with the Secretary of State’s office at 1700 Broadway Suite 270, Denver CO 80290. If you need assistance with completing and filing your complaint, you may contact The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People VOTE! Program. The Legal Center is authorized and funded under HAVA and is available to assist you anytime you have questions regarding your voting rights. They are also available on Election Day to help you if you believe that your rights are being or have been violated. You can call their Denver Office at 1-800-288-1376 or 303-722-3619 (TTY) or their Grand Junction Office at 1-800-531-2105 (V/TTY). The Legal Center is prohibited from using their HAVA funding for litigation; however, they can assist you with filing a complaint with the Secretary of State or the US Department of Justice. The election complaint template can be found on the Secretary of State’s website in the Election Center under the Help America Vote Act link.
Q: Will new voting equipment allow me to change my vote choice(s) before I cast my vote?
A: Yes. HAVA requires any new voting equipment to allow voters the opportunity to change their choices privately and independently before the ballot is cast and counted.
Q: How would recounts be conducted with the new voting machines?
A: The recount process will depend on the specifics of the voting machines used at the county level. The requirement will be met to verify the result in a close race, no matter what equipment is used.