FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION FY 2001 SUPPLEMENTAL REQUEST

Pursuant to our authority as a concurrent submission agency, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is seeking a FY 2001 Supplemental Appropriation request for $3 million dollars in no-year funds (i.e., funds that would be available beyond September 30, 2001) and 3 FTE staff (6 staff for 50% of FY 2001). This proposal for supplemental funding in FY 2001 would provide for an enhancement of the FEC Office of Election Administration (OEA) mission. It is in response to the numerous calls for reform of election administration. This enhanced support for OEA is sought to better assist state and local election administrators who are responsible for administering federal elections to develop operational election administration opeerational and management standards.

There has been considerable discussion of the need for federal assistance to the state and local election administrators responsible for acquiring, installing, operating and maintaining the nation’s electoral machinery. The 2000 presidential election raised issues with regard to both the adequacy of the voting machines and the standards, or lack thereof, used by local election officials, who in some cases are elected political officials and are not necessarily trained election administrators.

FEC Role

OEA was created under 2 U.S.C. 438(a)(10), which mandates that the Federal Election Commission serve as a national clearinghouse with respect to the administration of federal elections. The FEC has staffed OEA with recognized election experts who have extensive experience in election administration. Moreover, the FEC’s Commissioners are themselves well-versed in a variety of issues that confront election administrators. Prior to their service at the FEC, several Commissioners had substantial extensivexperience in election administration and other election issues, including selecting and testing voting equipment for both urban and rural areas, supervising the resolution of contested Congressional elections, and practicing election law in the area of recounts. Federal initiatives in improving election administration should be located at the FEC to leverage this expertise and to build on existing relationships with state and local election officials. This is a critical advantage if rapid action is desired and if meaningful assistance to state and local officials is to be provided for future elections. The proposal also avoids creating any new, duplicative bureaucracy.

The OEA staff serves as an objective moderator, brokering the interests of issue groups such as the disabled community with the interests of election officials and political office holders. They have experience working with the vendors of voting machines as well as with the election officials and state officers responsible for acquiring and operating voting machinery. OEA has worked with many groups of election officials and has chaired numerous meetings with election administrators to address a variety of issues, including polling place accessibility, Internet voting, and the Voting System Standards. OEA has participated in the implementation of federal initiatives in election administration, such as the Polling Place Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act and the National Voter Registration Act ("Motor Voter"), and has been engaged in a multiyear project to revise voluntary Voting Systems Standards (VSS), which represent technical standards for voting equipment. As a result of these efforts, OEA has gained the confidence of the election community by working closely with local and state officials on these collaborative efforts.

FEC Proposal

An objective, comprehensive approach is the best solution to the current issues regarding in administering federal elections. The FEC proposal is designed to address both short-term and long-term issues. While an immediate response might be to provide federal funds to acquire new voting machinery, thatsuch an approach doewould not address the establishment of operational and management standards for the testing and performance measurement of voting equipment, acquisition procedures for voting systems, system security practices, and ballot preparation and design.

The FEC proposal is designed to accomplish five objectives:

  • Enhance the existing voluntary voting system performance standards (VSS) that provide election officials with testing and measurement criteria to verify the performance, accuracy, reliability, and security of election systems. The VSS are currently being updated by theOEA, with completion expected by the end of calendar year 2001 (funded with existing FY 2001 money). The enhancements would expand supplementexisting standards and test criteria to address design/performance features that optimize ease of use and minimize voter confusion.
  • Extend the scope of the voluntary standards beyond testing and measurement to include operational management standards for acquisition, installation, testing, training, administration and maintenance of both existing and new automated voting systems. Develop standards for other management issues such as planning for and administering elections; system security practices; ballot design and preparation; public education; contested elections; and recounts. Provide up to date information and assistance for issues such as ballot access, reprecincting, and absentee and early voting. Establish and disseminate information on best practices in election administration.
  • Complete a census of existing election systems., to quantify the scope of the status of election systems, and to provide an objective cost to replace existing systems deemed inadequate or less reliable.
  • Identify the needs and resource requirements of local and state election officials, to assure that the most pressing needs are addressed, and that best practices are widely disseminated.
  • Design grant program criteria by which federal funds could be distributed to state and local jurisdictions should Congress decide to provide funds for the replacement of voting systems or for other election administration needs.

The most efficient way to meet these objectives to improve the nation’s voting systems is to build upon the work already accomplished by the FEC’s OEA. Ongoing funding will be required in future years to ensure that all aspects of the VSS are kept up-to-date.

FY 2001 Supplemental Proposal

This supplemental proposal requests $3.0 million in no-year funds. Work would begin on enhancing the VSS (beyond the update of the VSS funded by existing FY 2001 funds) and on developing the managementoperational standards in FY 2001. The gathering of information regarding the needs and resource requirements of state and local election officials, and the development of the proposals for research would occur in FY 2001. In addition to any supplemental funds remaining after FY 2001, the FY 2002 and later Budget Requests would contain funds for continuing work on the election management operational standards and for a comprehensive educational and information outreach program to widely disseminate the enhanced VSS, the managementoperational standards, and other OEA elections administration efforts. Finally, if Congress determines to enact a grant program to provide federal financial assistance to state and local election officials, the OEA would administer the grant program.

The $3.0 million would be spent as follows:

  1. Development of Election Operations Standards -- $1,100,000
    Enhance and expand the VSS standards to establish operational standards for the procurement, installation, testing, operation, and maintenance of voting systems; develop management standards for system security, ballot design and preparation, public education, training, polling place access and absentee processes. These new standards would focus on election planning and the vote tabulation process and would be designed to assist election officials in correctly setting up and operating the voting systems during elections. Some of this money also would be used to expand the existing qualification test criteria to include documented test processes for election management systems and to address design/performance features that optimize ease of use and minimize voter confusionand ergonomics. The new series of standards could assist election officials in maintaining the accuracy and integrity of election results and with election challenges as to the accuracy of their procedures and actual operations of the voting systems. The standards would be consolidated in a best practices in election administration document.
  2. Update and Develop OEA Publications -- $300,000
    Update and develop publications addressing current election issues, including elections and recounts, absentee/early voting options, and contested elections. The FEC also would explore developing models for administering elections, and models for ballot design, as well as models governing the conduct of elections and the counting of votes. The emphasis of this project would be to disseminate needed information to local election officials and provide extensive training opportunities. In future FYs, OEA staff and contractors would conduct workshops at various locations to present the materials and models and to provide training sessions for state and local officials on best practices in elections administration. The scope of the outreach and training envisioned is far beyond the ability of OEA within the limits of current funding levels and would be part of the additional funding requested for these projects in FY 2002.
  3. Identify Needs and Resource Requirements of Local and State Election Officials -- $450,000
    A major portion of these funds would be used for OEA to meet with state and local election officials to determine their resource requirements and to obtain their guidance on election policy issues that can be incorporated into the development of election operations standards. In addition to its existing Advisory Panel of state and local election officials, the OEA would also consult with groups such as the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers (IACREOT), and the Election Center to ensure that there is broad participation and support for the development of new standards or proposed best practices and model procedures. This initiative would allow election officials to compare and share solutions for election problems developed by other election jurisdictions and officials.
  4. Design Grant Program Criteria to Provide Federal Funds to State and Local Jurisdictions -- $500,000
    This project would establish an OEA database on the election systems in use in all local jurisdictions. This would allow estimates to be developed for the cost of replacing existing voting systems nationwide with systems that meet the standards for improved performance. The FEC would recommend to Congress a grant program, including proposed criteria for the distribution of funds. If a grant program were established, the funds to cover the grants would be sought in future budgets.
  5. Additional OEA staff -- $650,000
    Funding would be used to hire 3.0 additional FTE (6 staff for 50% of FY 2001): a Senior Level Administrator; 2 project managers to administer the project; a technical position to provide technical advice on the contracts and assist with the workshops; a conference and workshop planner and coordinator; and one clerical position employee. The six additional staff would cost $262,000 in FY 2001. The remaining $388,000 would be used to support the conferences for consultation with state and local election administrators. Estimated budget:
Personnel $262,000
Travel $100,000
Printing $125,000
Postage $25,000
Conference expenses $50,000
Equipment, etc $63,000
Rent

$25,000

The requested travel and printing in FY 2002 and future years would be used to disseminate the new standards to state and local election officials through a series of workshops starting in FY 2002. The OEA anticipates holding a conference in FY 2002 to introduce the updated VSS to election officials.

FY 2001 VSS Projects and FY 2002 Funding

The projects proposed above are in addition to the current VSS updates that OEA plans to complete by December 2001. Budgeted FY 2001 funds will be used to enhance the current VSS and to hold Advisory Panel meetings on the VSS updates, as well as to consult with elections officials in initiating the development of management operational standards. In FY 2002, the OEA will hold a conference to introduce the revised VSS to the election administration community. When the operational and management standards are completed, FY 2002 funds will be used to undertake a large scale and comprehensive educational outreach program to widely and aggressively disseminate the new standards.

In sum, the proposed course of action is as follows: complete VSS updates with current FY 2001 funds; use the FY 2001 Supplemental (no-year funds) to expand VSS technical standards and develop management andoperational standards, undertake an assessment of elections administration resources and a census of current elections systems, and design grant program criteria; with the FY 2001 Supplemental (no-year funds); complete the management operational standards and initiate comprehensive educational and dissemination program in FY 2002 (with some of the no-year FY 2001 funds and the funds requested in the Full FY 2002 Budget); and implement any enacted grant program in FY 2002 and future fiscal years.

 

ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION FY 2001-2
PROJECT/PROGRAM
 
FY 2001
FTE
FY 2002
FTE
TOTAL
           
Existing OEA Funds FY 2001
           
Complete VSS Standards
  $ 200,000 0 $ - 0 $ 200,000
Hold VSS Advisory Panel Meetings/Additional Standards
  $ 60,000 0 $ - 0 $ 60,000
FY 2001 Existing Totals
  $ 260,000   $ -   $ 260,000
           
Develop Operations Standards/Expand VSS
           
Research Contracts--VSS and Operations Standards
  $ 1,100,000 0 $ 500,000 0 $ 1,600,000
Education Program-Disseminate Standards
  $ -   $ 500,000   $ 500,000
Subtotal Operations Standards/VSS
  $ 1,100,000   $ 1,000,000   $ 2,100,000
           
Assess Elections Administration Resources
           
Consult with Elections Administrators
  $ 150,000 0 $ - 0 $ 150,000
Conduct Assessment of EA Resources and Needs
  $ 300,000 0 $ - 0 $ 300,000
Subtotal Resource Assessment
  $ 450,000   $ -   $ 450,000
           
Update OEA Contracts on Elections Admin.
           
Research Contracts
  $ 300,000 0 $ 300,000 0 $ 600,000
Publish/Disseminate Results
  $ -   $ 450,000   $ 450,000
Subtotal OEA Updates
  $ 300,000   $ 750,000   $ 1,050,000
           
Develop Grant Program
           
Census of Voting Systems
  $ 400,000 0 $ - 0 $ 400,000
Design Grant Program Criteria
  $ 100,000 0 $ - 0 $ 100,000
Subtotal Grant Program Development
  $ 500,000   $ -   $ 500,000
           
Administer Research and Grant Programs
           
Personnel
  $ 262,000 3 $ 552,000 6 $ 814,000
Travel
  $ 100,000   $ 40,000   $ 140,000
Postage
  $ 25,000   $ 25,000   $ 50,000
Printing
  $ 125,000   $ 40,000   $ 165,000
Conference Expenses/Supplies
  $ 50,000   $ 25,000   $ 75,000
Rent
  $ 25,000   $ 100,000   $ 125,000
Equipment
  $ 63,000   $ 10,000   $ 73,000
Administer Programs Totals
  $ 650,000 3 $ 792,000 6 $ 1,442,000
           
FY 2001 SUPPLEMENTAL
  $ 3,000,000 3 $ -   $ 3,000,000
           
FY 2001 TOTALS
  $ 3,260,000 3 $ -   $ 3,260,000
           
FY 2002 BUDGET
  $ -   $ 2,542,000 6 $ 2,542,000
           
FY 2002 TOTALS
  $ -   $ 2,542,000 6 $ 2,542,000