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Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

After the chaos and allegations of elections fraud surrounding the 2000 Presidential elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The Act seeks to replace antiquated punch cards which were the source of many problems. In addition, the Act seeks to make election procedures in general more uniform and ensure that voters are not discriminated against. The Act has three major titles. Below is a brief description of each and the basic requirements.

Under Title I, states are required to develop plans to improve the election systems. Federal funds have been made available to assist states in making these improvements. Voting systems must provide for independent and private voting for all voters including disabled citizens and must allow voters to verify their selections and make changes before casting their vote. Voting systems must create records that may be recounted and audited. There must also be a provisional ballot which allows voters to cast ballots when there is a problem with any vote cast, question of registration, which precinct to vote at and other issues which may arise on election day. The state must have procedures for reviewing provisional ballots and counting them.

States are not required to take any particular action to improve their election systems but may use these funds for the following:

  • Complying with the requirements under Title III for a uniform nondiscriminatory voting system.

  • Improving the administration of elections for Federal office.

  • Educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology.

  • Training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers.

  • Developing the State plan for requirements payments to be submitted under Part 1 of subtitle D of Title II.

  • Improving, acquiring, leasing, modifying, or replacing voting systems and technology and methods for casting and counting votes.

  • Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing nonvisual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language.

  • Establishing toll-free telephone hotlines that voters may use to report possible voting fraud and voting rights violations, to obtain general election information, and to access detailed automated information on their own voter registration status, specific polling place locations, and other relevant information.

Title II of the Act establishes the Election Assistance Commission and describes its duties, powers and responsibilities. One of its major roles is to establish communications with state election officials to assist in the implementation of HAVA. Another important role is to establish committees of experts to develop standards for voting machines, election systems and administration, and accessibility of voting equipment. The National Institute for Standards Technology is given the responsibility for establishing these standards under Title III of HAVA. In addition, the Access Board has created guidelines for making voting places accessible.

Title III of the Act outlines the requirements to be met in developing standards and procedures for a voting system. The National Institute for Standards in Technology (NIST) is charged with working with the Election Assistance Commission and technology committees to develop standards to be used to measure the degree to which a particular voting system meets those requirements.

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