May 22, 2020
States notified five-year limitation on the availability of the funds does not apply
Silver Spring, MD – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) determined that HAVA Election Security funds are available to the states until they are expended. Previous guidance requiring 2018 and 2020 HAVA Election Security funds to be expended within a five-year period no longer applies.
This spring, the EAC asked the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Government Accountability Office for official opinions on the period of availability of security grant funds to the states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). In response to the EAC’s request, the Office of Management and Budget issued a legal opinion confirming the five-year limitation period does not apply to security grant funds to the states under HAVA. Due to demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government Accountability Office informed the EAC that a written opinion might be delayed. To avoid a continued delay, the EAC moved forward so states could adjust their planning as soon as possible.
“State election offices are facing difficult circumstances as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for 2020 elections, while allocating resources for future elections to ensure cyber and physical security. The EAC Commissioners wanted to move forward with this decision so the states have definitive guidance to rely on and to ensure they are in the best position possible to comply with federal grant audit requirements and procedures,” said EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “We hope this change will help states meet short- and long-term needs as they work to administer secure, accessible, accurate elections in 2020 and beyond.”
In 2018, a change in appropriations language made the period of availability ambiguous, and the EAC implemented the grants with a five-year limit on the availability of the funds. However, HAVA contains explicit provisions stating the funds are available to the states “without fiscal year limitation.”
Past EAC appropriations language typically recognized the unlimited availability of HAVA funds and included language in annual appropriations that allowed EAC funds to “remain available until expended.” The Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2020 did not include that language which would indicate general appropriations processes would apply; the federal agency had one year to obligate the funds and five years to expend them. In the absence of other legal authority finding that the funds are limited to five years, the EAC will consider both the 2018 and 2020 HAVA security funds to have no time limit for expenditure by the states.
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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit www.eac.gov.