(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.)
111th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 111-169
ABSENTEE BALLOT TRACK, RECEIVE, AND CONFIRM ACT
June 19, 2009.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Brady of Pennsylvania, from the Committee on House Aministration,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2510]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on House Administration, to whom was referred
the bill (H.R. 2510) to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002
to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a
program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee
ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on
the receipt of such ballots available by means of online
access, and for other purposes, having considered the same,
report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that
the bill do pass.
Purpose of the Legislation
A number of States and jurisdictions have seen an increase
in absentee voting over the past decade. More voters than ever
are participating in elections by casting a ballot by mail.
Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by the Overseas
Vote Foundation, more than half of the surveyed military and
overseas voters who tried to vote in the 2008 election were
unable to because their requested ballots either were received
by the voter too late to be counted or were not received by the
voter at all.\1\ Even when ballots do arrive in time for
absentee voters to cast their mail-in ballots, many become
anxious that their ballots may not reach election official
offices on time and question whether their votes are actually
\1\``2008 Overseas Vote Foundation Post Election UOCAVA Survey
Report and Analysis,'' Overseas Vote Foundation: February 2009.
\2\Binlot, Ann, ``Why is Voting Overseas So Difficult,'' Time:
November 1, 2008.
In order to address voters' uncertainty regarding whether
their absentee ballots have been actually counted, a handful of
jurisdictions have implemented tracking technology allowing
voters to verify that their ballots have been received and
processed by their election officials in a timely manner. Using
the internet, some voters can already track ballots from
receipt to tabulation. Counties in states such as California,
Washington, Virginia, and Kansas have highly effective systems
H.R. 2510 provides grants to states that chose to establish
such procedures to track absentee mail-in ballots. Tracking
systems would allow voters to check, via the internet or
calling an automated number, whether an elections office has
sent out a ballot, whether a completed ballot has arrived back
at the registrar's office, whether the registrar has counted
the ballot, and if not, why.
Both voters and election offices benefit from the
implementation of ballot tracking technology. Providing voters
such tracking services will offer voters the opportunity to
easily assess if there are problems with their ballots. Voters
will be given peace of mind that their ballots have been
processed appropriately. The ability to check ballot status
around the clock is an especially convenient service for
military and overseas voters who live in various time zones. In
fact, during the Committee on House Administration Elections
Subcommittee's hearing titled ``Military and Overseas Voting:
Obstacles and Potential Solutions'' held on May, 21, 2009,
every witness expressed support for ballot tracking
\3\``Military and Overseas Voting--Obstacles and Potential
Solutions: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Elections of the
Committee on House Administration,'' 111th Congress, 1st Session
Additionally, adopting ballot tracking systems would
alleviate elections offices from the deluge of phone calls that
voters make in the weeks approaching elections as they try to
track down their absentee ballots. Ballot tracking technology
ultimately results in cost savings and takes the strain off
election offices. A ballot tracking program will yield enormous
benefits and is inexpensive to implement. For example, San
Mateo County in California set up a ballot tracking program for
under $2,000 to assist almost 20% of eligible voters who use
absentee voting.\4\ Election offices and officials should be
able to work with companies that currently make the technology;
some may even opt to stay ``in-house'' to create effective
ballot tracking systems with the grants provided in this bill.
\4\H.R. 2510 was modeled on California Senate Bill 1725, which
provided the framework for the successful San Mateo County ballot
Lastly, the intent of this legislation is still to allow
for voters to cast a secret ballots; only the outside ballot
envelopes would be marked. Therefore, no additional information
would be made available about absentee requestors or the way
their votes were cast.
This legislation will greatly improve transparency and
voter confidence in America's election system by allowing
voters to receive accurate and updated information on the
status of their ballots and whether they were counted.
Section-by-Section Summary of Legislation
Section 1--Short title: Entitles bill ``Absentee Ballot Track, Receive,
and Confirm Act''
Section 2--Reimbursement for costs incurred in establishing a program
to track and confirm receipt of absentee ballots
Section 2(a)--Payment for Costs Establishing Program:
Authorizes the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to make
payments reimbursing states that voluntarily establish absentee
ballot tracking programs.
Section 2(b)--Absentee Ballot Tracking Program Described:
Requires a program receiving funds to track ballots, confirm
receipt of ballots, provide information regarding whether the
ballot was counted, and if a ballot was not counted explain the
reason why it was rejected. In addition, the program must offer
individuals the ability to access information online or, if the
election office has no internet capability, via a telephone
service, to check the status of their absentee ballots.
Section 2(c)--Certification of Compliance and Costs:
Requires participating states to submit to the EAC a
certification that a program has been established as well as a
statement of the costs incurred. Participating States are
eligible for full reimbursement for the costs incurred, but the
reimbursement amount cannot exceed the product of $3,000 and
the number of jurisdictions in the State that are responsible
for operating the program. In addition, States are limited to
one payment under this program. Lastly, this section authorizes
such sums as necessary for payments and allows such
appropriated monies to remain available until expended.
Committee Consideration of the Legislation
INTRODUCTION AND REFERRAL
On May 5, 2009, Mrs. Davis of California, along with Mr.
McCarthy, introduced H.R. 2510, which was referred to the
Committee on House Administration.
On May 21, 2009, the Committee on House Administration
Subcommittee on Elections held a hearing entitled ``Military
and Overseas Voting: Obstacles and Potential Solutions.'' The
following members were present at the hearing: Subcommittee
Chair Zoe Lofgren, Representative Susan Davis, Representative
Kevin McCarthy, and Representative Greg Harper.
1. The Honorable Gail McGinn--Acting Undersecretary for
Personnel and Readiness, U.S. Department of Defense.
2. Captain Patricia Garcia--Voting Assistance Officer,
United States Air Force.
3. Mr. Rokey Suleman--General Registrar, Fairfax County,
4. Ms. Jessie Jane Duff--Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine
On June 10, 2009, the Committee met to mark up H.R. 2510.
The Committee favorably reported H.R. 2510 by a voice vote. A
quorum was present.
Matters Required Under the Rules of the House
COMMITTEE RECORD VOTES
Clause 3(b) of House rule XIII requires that the results of
each record vote on an amendment or motion to report, together
with the name of those voting for and against, to be printed in
the committee report.
There were no amendments considered during the markup.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS
In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules
of the House of Representatives, the Committee states that the
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the
descriptive portions of this report.
In compliance with clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII, the
Committee states that Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S.
Constitution grants Congress the authority to make laws
governing the time, place and manner of holding Federal
In response to the requirements of clause 9 of rule XXI,
H.R. 2510, the Committee reports that the Absentee Ballot
Track, Receive, and Confirm Act does not include any
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff
benefits as defined in clause 9(d), 9(e), or 9(f) of rule XXI.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE COST ESTIMATE
In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules
of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets forth, with
respect to the bill, the following estimate and comparison
prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office
under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974:
June 16, 2009.
Hon. Robert A. Brady,
Chairman, Committee on House Administration,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2510, the Absentee
Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contacts are Matthew
Pickford and Daniel Hoople.
Douglas W. Elmendorf.
H.R. 2510--Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act
H.R. 2510 would authorize the appropriation of such sums as
may be necessary for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
to award grants to states that choose to establish systems for
tracking absentee ballots. Assuming appropriation of the
necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing the
legislation would cost $20 million over the 2010-2014 period.
Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.
H.R. 2510 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. The
bill would benefit state and local governments by authorizing
grants for systems to track absentee ballots.
To qualify for a grant under the bill, tracking systems
must provide voters with the ability to confirm whether their
absentee ballot for a federal election has been received and
counted. Confirmation may occur via the Internet or, in cases
where a jurisdiction has not established an official Web site,
a toll-free telephone number.
H.R. 2510 would authorize grants to reimburse states for
the costs of establishing such systems (including those in
place prior to enactment), although the total grant could not
exceed $3,000 per election jurisdiction. CBO expects that those
grants would provide a sufficient incentive to most
jurisdictions to establish such systems. Based on information
from EAC, CBO estimates that there are approximately 7,000
election jurisdictions in the United States.
The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Matthew
Pickford and Daniel Hoople. The estimate was approved by
Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is
proposed is shown in roman):
HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT OF 2002
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) * * *
(b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents of this Act is
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Subtitle D--Election Assistance
* * * * * * *
Part 7--Payments To Reimburse States for Costs Incurred in Establishing
Program To Track and Confirm Receipt of Absentee Ballots
Sec. 297. Payments to States.
Sec. 297A. Authorization of appropriations.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Subtitle D--Election Assistance
* * * * * * *
PART 7--PAYMENTS TO REIMBURSE STATES FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING
PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS
SEC. 297. PAYMENTS TO STATES.
(a) Payments For Costs of Establishing Program.--In
accordance with this section, the Commission shall make a
payment to a State to reimburse the State for the costs
incurred in establishing, if the State so chooses to establish,
an absentee ballot tracking program with respect to elections
for Federal office held in the State (including costs incurred
prior to the date of the enactment of this part).
(b) Absentee Ballot Tracking Program Described.--
(1) Program described.--
(A) In general.--In this part, an ``absentee
ballot tracking program'' is a program to track
and confirm the receipt of absentee ballots in
an election for Federal office under which the
State or local election official responsible
for the receipt of voted absentee ballots in
the election carries out procedures to track
and confirm the receipt of such ballots, and
makes information on the receipt of such
ballots available to the individual who cast
the ballot, by means of online access using the
Internet site of the official's office.
(B) Information on whether vote was
counted.--The information referred to under
subparagraph (A) with respect to the receipt of
an absentee ballot shall include information
regarding whether the vote cast on the ballot
was counted, and, in the case of a vote which
was not counted, the reasons therefor.
(2) Use of toll-free telephone number by officials
without internet site.--A program established by a
State or local election official whose office does not
have an Internet site may meet the description of a
program under paragraph (1) if the official has
established a toll-free telephone number that may be
used by an individual who cast an absentee ballot to
obtain the information on the receipt of the voted
absentee ballot as provided under such paragraph.
(c) Certification of Compliance and Costs.--
(1) Certification required.--In order to receive a
payment under this section, a State shall submit to the
Commission a statement containing--
(A) a certification that the State has
established an absentee ballot tracking program
with respect to elections for Federal office
held in the State; and
(B) a statement of the costs incurred by the
State in establishing the program.
(2) Amount of payment.--The amount of a payment made
to a State under this section shall be equal to the
costs incurred by the State in establishing the
absentee ballot tracking program, as set forth in the
statement submitted under paragraph (1), except that
such amount may not exceed the product of--
(A) the number of jurisdictions in the State
which are responsible for operating the
(3) Limit on number of payments received.--A State
may not receive more than one payment under this part.
SEC. 297A. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
(a) Authorization.--There are authorized to be appropriated
to the Commission for fiscal year 2010 and each succeeding
fiscal year such sums as may be necessary for payments under
(b) Continuing Availability of Funds.--Any amounts
appropriated pursuant to the authorization under this section
shall remain available until expended.
* * * * * * *