In a surprising move, the state budget passed by the NC House and Senate yesterday does not include roughly $660,000 for the state Board of Elections to administer and oversee this year’s election. Even more importantly, that money would have freed up an additional $4 million dollars in federal funds that could be used to train poll workers, maintain voting machines and ensure the election runs smoothly.
It’s unclear why the money was not allocated in the budget since earlier versions of the budget from both the House and the Senate included it, but when the compromise budget was hammered out the money was removed. Not including the money shortchanges every voter in North Carolina, not to mention our entire election system.
The federal funds are part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in the wake of the Florida debacle in 2000. However, to access that money states need to maintain a certain level of funding. Unfortunately, ensuring the 2012 elections were open and orderly was not a priority for the state and the money was not included in the budget.
This is all the more shocking considering this could be the biggest election year in North Carolina’s history. We will have competitive races for president and governor, plus we’ll elect the entire state legislature and Council of State, and could easily see turnout surpass 4.5 million voters. Knowing that, it would seem like common sense to make sure the state sets aside the money so voters aren’t negatively impacted, especially since around $660,000 from the state would unlock an additional $4 million.
We now run the risk of long lines and unnecessary delays at the polls, voter confusion and the potential for voter machine errors. $660,000 is a wise investment in the democratic process, but for the North Carolina General Assembly, apparently the priorities lie elsewhere.