Mrs. DAVIS of California. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass 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.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act''.
SEC. 2. REIMBURSEMENT FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS.
(a) Reimbursement.--Subtitle D of title II of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15401 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new part:
``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 [Page: H8939]
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
``(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
``(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.''.
(b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of contents of such Act is amended by adding at the end of the items relating to subtitle D of title II the following:
``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.''.
Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks on this legislation.
Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in support of this bill, the TRAC bill, which will encourage States to adopt measures toward the modernization of election systems.
The legitimacy of our election systems is based on the public trust that properly cast ballots are counted, and in the case of absentee ballots, reach their appropriate destination. Any time an election system fails to include properly cast ballots there is cause for concern as to the legitimacy of the outcome.
Long gone should be the days when dog-eared absentee ballots are relegated to dark and dusty corners of election offices with voters never having the certainty that their vote counted. By instituting a tracking system, States can further ensure the security of their absentee ballots. Some have said this is really promoting uniform postal progress information for election shipments. Moreover, an absentee ballot tracking system will enable voters to act as guardians of their own vote, providing
them the ability to call attention to ballots that fail to reach their destination.
An important aspect of this bill beyond the benefits of a ballot tracking system is that it is a voluntary, incentive-driven program. Whereas each State approaches its election process from a unique background and context, this voluntary program empowers the States to modernize their election systems in a manner appropriate to their particular challenges. The Committee on House Administration has held several hearings over the past year dealing with challenges to the administration of reliable
and credible elections. Through the testimony of many qualified witnesses, we have come to realize that one particular subset of voters who are particularly vulnerable to those challenges is overseas military voters. My colleague on the committee, Mr. McCarthy,
has introduced a piece of legislation which will help remedy that disservice to our men and women in uniform. And just as we take up this bill today, I am hopeful that we will soon see Mr. McCarthy's bill brought before this body for a vote.
It simply isn't acceptable for ballots to disappear, some might say, like wandering puppies. We owe our uniformed servicemembers better than that.
Madam Speaker, I urge support for this measure, and I yield back the balance of my time. [Page: H8940]