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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 
counted.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \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 
in place.
    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 
technology.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \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 
(2009).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    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 
tracking program.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    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.

                                HEARINGS

    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.

Witnesses

    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, 
Virginia.
    4. Ms. Jessie Jane Duff--Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine 
Corps (Ret).

                                 MARKUP

    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.

                        CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY

    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 
elections.

                         EARMARK IDENTIFICATION

    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.
            Sincerely,
                                              Douglas W. Elmendorf.
    Enclosure.

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 
as follows:
     * * * * * * *

                          TITLE II--COMMISSION

     * * * * * * *

                     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.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


TITLE II--COMMISSION

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


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 
                program; and
                  (B) $3,000.
          (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 
this part.
  (b) Continuing Availability of Funds.--Any amounts 
appropriated pursuant to the authorization under this section 
shall remain available until expended.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *