Senators to Increase Funding Provisions in Voting Reform Bill

Senators to Increase Funding Provisions in Voting Reform Bill

Senate sponsors of a key voting reform bill are planning to introduce a revised version that would increase proposed funding for modernizing voting systems.

The Voting Study and Improvement Act of 2000, introduced Dec. 5 by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., would require the Federal Elections Commission to study voting procedures in federal elections and create a one-time, $250 million matching grant program to help states acquire and improve systems.

Schumer now is planning to revise and reintroduce the bill so that it provides matching grants over several years to the states, according to a staff member with Schumer's office.

"The $250 million [grant program] will go up and will last for several years," said Martin Sigel, Schumer's senior counsel, at a briefing Jan. 10 to the National Commission on Election Standards and Reform. The National Association of Counties and National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks created the commission.

Sigel did not say how much Schumer intends to increase the bill's funding.

Another Senate bill, the Election Reform Act, sponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., contains a provision that would provide up to $100 million in matching grants per year to states and localities to improve voting systems.

If passed as originally written, the Schumer-Brownback bill would provide only $250 million toward modernization before the next presidential election, while the McConnell-Torricelli bill would provide $400 million in the same period, said Andrew Siff, counsel to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Both bills share two things, Siff said. They establish a blue ribbon commission to study voting reform, and they provide funding for modernization. Hearings on both are scheduled to begin in February, he said.

"The proposed $250 million federal investment might spur much more substantial state expenditures, but the feds ought to consider higher levels of spending if they want vastly improved systems to be in place by 2004," Thomas Mann, W. Averell Harriman Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Washington Technology.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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