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February 14, 2003 (402) 471-1572

Nebraska’s Top Election Official Calls Passage of
2003 Federal Funding Bill a Victory for State Voters
$1.5 Billion Allocation for Election Reform Brings State Money for Upgrades & More

Lincoln, NE - Calling it the best Presidents’ Day news possible for state election administrators and voters, Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale praised Congress and the White House for signing off last Thursday on a $397 billion budget bill that would give state and local governments $1.5 billion to overhaul elections in the United States.  The measure will bring as much as $9 Million to Nebraska to replace antiquated punch card and lever voting machines, clean up voter rolls, and make it easier for disabled citizens and overseas military personnel to vote.  President Bush is expected to sign the bill this week.

"During a time when the nation is honoring our founding fathers like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and their contributions to democracy, it’s time to invest some money where our ballot boxes are," said Gale.  "These federal dollars will help strengthen our elections process by improving access at the polls, increasing our technology levels, and helping us educate and train voters and poll workers alike."

The Help America Vote Act, signed into law during the 107th Congress, authorizes a total of $3.9 billion over three years, beginning with $2.16 billion in fiscal year 2003. Approximately $650 million is authorized directly to states in 2003 to replace old voting equipment and improve election administration. The majority of funding will be distributed to states over three years according to a formula based on voter population, and following the submission of a state election reform plan.

The next steps, according to the provisions of the "Help America Vote Act," will require Nebraska to pass a new law meeting the federal requirements of the bill and the Secretary of State to submit a state election reform plan to a newly-created Election Assistance Commission.  Secretary Gale said "I’m in the process of creating an inclusive and broad-based State Committee to create the state election reform plan.  We hope to be ready for the Governor to certify our state compliance with federal mandates by early September."

During a year in which state budget gaps have grown by as much as fifty-percent, state officials across the country are expressing relief over the receipt of federal funding to support HAVA mandates.  The National Conference of State Legislatures, along with the National Association of Secretaries of State, named election reform as one of the states’ top ten budget issues in 2003.