On March 23, Congress authorized $380 million in HAVA grant funding to be allocated to states for the purpose of providing improvements in elections security. See article, County Issues, Congress Authorizes Funds for Election Security, June 6, 2018.
The Texas Secretary of State’s (SOS) office received approximately $23.3 million in funding. On July 18, the SOS submitted their proposed plan and narrative to the U.S. Elections Commission (EAC) specifying their primary objectives in the utilization of grant funds. The primary objectives are the following:
- Provide security services to Texas county election officials to address election auditing and cybersecurity needs:
- A portion of the funds will be expended on making security products available to 254 counties and acquiring a subscription for a cyber security training course to be made available, free of charge, to election officials before the 2018 general election.
- Enhance security and integration of Texas’ statewide computerized voter registration database (TEAM):
- The state intends to devote some of the 2018 HAVA Election Security funds in making security enhancements to TEAM (Texas Election Administration Management), and various election management applications relating to candidate filing, ballot certification, election night reporting, and the canvassing of elections, which are maintained by the SOS. This will help ensure modules are utilized efficiently, economically, and securely and allow upgrades as necessary. This will also include the election night reporting system and other election applications. It is anticipated these enhancements and upgrades will be completed at or before the end of 2019, if possible.
- Assist counties and other local political subdivisions in negotiating contracts to acquire new voting equipment:
- The elections security grant is not sufficient to replace voting systems state-wide. Some of the funding will go to assist counties with contract solutions in purchasing voting equipment. The SOS will work with the Texas Department of Information Resources to use their “cooperative purchasing program” to help facilitate service agreements, “cooperative purchases between counties and/or political subdivisions,” or if funding is available to “subsidize portions of voting system costs.” Any new voting system acquired using contract solutions offered, “Must produce a voter verifiable paper audit trail.” The state plans to provide contract services at or before the end of 2021.
Is there hope on the horizon to receive additional HAVA funds or state funds to subsidize purchasing of new voting equipment? The U.S. Senate recently approved an FY19 “minibus” appropriations spending package but it did not include an amendment introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would have provided $250 million in election security grants.
Additional funding from the state or the federal government to assist counties with replacing antiquated voting equipment does not look promising. It is not known at this time if the secretary of state plans on requesting funds from the legislature in the upcoming session to assist counties in purchasing new voting equipment.
The proposal submitted by the SOS to the EAC may be viewed on the SOS’s website.