Guidance on Meeting Match in CARES Act Grants under HAVA 

CARES and HAVA

Testing and Certification Guidance on Use of HAVA Funds for Expenses Related to COVID-19 2020 HAVA CARES Funds

Closeout Process HAVA Election Security Grants About EAC HAVA Grant FAQs

2020 HAVA Security Funds

Voters

Election Administration

National Mail Voter Registration Form Voting System Testing and Certification Research HAVA Section 251, 101, 102 Grants Accessibility FOIA HAVA Discretionary Grants

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2010 College Poll Worker Program

Question & Answers

State allocations for mandatory grants under HAVA are calculated based on a formula established in the law that includes three steps:

  1. A minimum percentage is allocated to all states and the District of Columbia (½ of 1% of the appropriation) and the five territories (1/10 of 1%).
  2. The remainder is allocated based on the voting age population of each state in relation to the total voting age population of all states as reported in the most recent decennial census.
  3. If all states and territories do not receive the guaranteed minimum payment in HAVA ($1,000,000 for territories and $5,000,000 for the 50 states and the District of Columbia), funds are re-allocated from states above that minimum to states below the minimum to ensure all states and territories receive at least the guaranteed minimum.

The guaranteed minimum payment established in the law can be changed in appropriations language.

Questioned costs are expenses that are questioned by the auditor because of an audit finding (See 2 CFR 200.84). A questioned cost: 1) may result from a violation or possible violation of a state, regulation, or terms and conditions of a federal award, 2) may not be supported by adequate documentation, or 3) may appear unreasonable (does not reflect the actions that a prudent person would take in the circumstances).

Capital improvements to land, buildings, or equipment which materially increase their value require prior written approval from the EAC per 2 CFR 200.439. Without pre-approval, capital improvement costs are not allowable.

EAC issues debt collection letters at closeout, if there are unexpended funds that need to be returned, or to collect disallowed costs based on an OIG audit finding. Debts must be paid within 90 days of receiving the debt collection letter. The EAC will charge interest and fees on an overdue debt in accordance with the Federal Claims Standards (31 CFR parts 900 through 999).

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 authorizes the federal funds, titled “Election Security Grants” in the Act “to make payments to states for activities to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements.

The accompanying Congressional joint explanatory statement states, “Consistent with the requirements of HAVA, states may use this funding to: replace voting equipment that only records a voter's intent electronically with equipment that utilizes a voter-verified paper record; implement a post-election audit system that provides a high-level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally; upgrade election-related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities identified through [Department of Homeland Security] or similar scans or assessments of existing election systems; facilitate cybersecurity training for the state chief election official's office and local election officials; implement established cybersecurity best practices for election systems; and fund other activities that will improve the security of elections for federal office.”

See “Post-Award Usage of Funds” for specific examples of allowable activities under HAVA.

We follow the process set up in the Help America Vote Act in Section 101(d)(2) which is summarized below:   

Step 1. A minimum amount is distributed at first to all the states and territories, 1/2 of one percent to the states and 1/10 of one percent to the territories.​ 

Step 2. The remainder of the amount appropriated is allocated based on the percentage of voting age population in the state. Per HAVA, the population numbers are from the current published decennial census.

Step 3. There is also a minimum amount per state set in HAVA or the current appropriation act.   If there are states and territories that fall below that minimum after the allocation is made based on voting age population, the law calls for a prorated reduction from larger states to bring the smaller ones up to the minimum. 

Note: As of March 1, 2022, the most current decennial census data for the states is the 2020 Census and the most current data for the territories is the 2010 Census.  If grant funding must be distributed before the territory data is published for the 2020 Census, the EAC would make formula awards using hybrid data combining the 2020 and 2010 census.   

A corrective action plan (CAP) is a step-by-step plan of action that is developed to achieve targeted outcomes for resolution of an identified problem or noncompliance. The EAC requires a CAP for grantees that are out of compliance with grant requirements (e.g. missed reporting deadlines).

The EAC considers requests for extensions on a case-by-case basis. Requests must be made in writing via email prior to the deadline of the required submission and should include an explanation for why the extension is needed.

Yes, semi-annual, and annual reporting are required. Both a Federal Financial Report (FFR) and a narrative Progress Report are due for semi-annual and annual reporting cycles.

See “Reporting” for more information about the EAC’s reporting requirements.

In addition to FAQs, the EAC publishes guidance on grant requirements such as reporting and closeout on our website: https://www.eac.gov/payments-and-grants/financial-progress-reporting

For additional guidance and general questions about EAC grants and HAVA, please email grants@eac.gov or HAVAfunding@eac.gov.

The state must follow its own laws and procedures regarding the distribution of grant funds when issuing a sub-grant but must also assure that the sub-grantee is aware of the limitations imposed by the federal grant. A state must follow its own law as to whether a cost sharing agreement is required, or some other form of grant agreement is needed. However, there should be some documentation that supports the transfer of these funds to the local governments, whether it be a certification by the governments that they will comply with the limitations or that the governments receive funds on a cost reimbursement basis after providing a request for the funds and proof that they were spent in accordance with the state and federal restrictions. OMB Circular A-102, Common Rule, 41 C.F.R. § 105-71.137, Sub-grants, covers the requirements for states that issue sub-grants of federal funds.

Program income is income you earn as a direct result of activities supported under the grant. For example, if you developed cyber security training materials with grant funds and charge your voting districts for them, the funds you receive in payment are program income. Net program income is the amount of income remaining after deducting the costs of providing the materials to voting districts, such as shipping costs. The EAC uses program income lines 10(l-o) exclusively for reporting federal interested earned and expended, therefore, net program income is reported as part of the Recipient Share on line 10(i) and in Box 12, Remarks of the Federal Financial Report.

See also “Where do we report interest earned on the federal share?”

Audit Resolution is the follow-up process with grant recipients to ensure grantees take appropriate and timely action to address OIG (Office of Inspector General) audit findings of HAVA funds. After the OIG issues a final report, the EAC Grants staff will work with the audited agency to implement recommendations from the audit report and confirm the grantee has taken appropriate correction action. The result will be a management decision by the EAC that describes what the grantee has done or will do to address the findings. The resolution process will be complete when the EAC confirms all actions are resolved.

Yes, the EAC adopted 2 CFR. by policy as permitted by the Office of Management and Budget. Grantees acknowledge the regulations by reviewing and accepting the terms of the award as specified in the Notice of Grant Award.

Audit resolution is complete and the EAC can close the audit when all required corrective action described in the management decision is complete. That process must be completed within 12 months of the date the OIG issues the audit. However, in most cases, corrective action should be completed much sooner. The management decision includes timelines for completion of any action that is still outstanding when the management decision is issued. Management decisions must be issued within ?? months of the date the audit report is issued.

States must provide annual and semi-annual standard Federal Financial Reports and progress reports. The semi-annual reporting period is from October 1 to March 31 with a due date of April 30. The annual reporting period is from October 1 to September 30 with the due date of December 29.

Full reporting guidance can be found on our website: https://www.eac.gov/payments-and-grants/financial-progress-reporting

No, states are not required to accept the funds. If a state chooses not to request the funds, EAC will require a formal notification. 

The EAC awards two distinct types of grants: 1) HAVA operational grants to states and territories and 2) discretionary grants. Operational grants include Section 101 grants for the improvement of federal election administration and Title II Section 251 requirements payments grants. The EAC does not currently have funds available for discretionary grants. For more information about current open and active grants, please visit our “Grants Management and Oversight” page.

 Guidance on Meeting Match in CARES Act Grants under HAVA 

The state should follow the regulations at 2 CFR 200 related to the requirements for match documentation. They apply to subgrantee as well as grantees and the grantee is responsible for ensuring subgrantees are following the regulations and maintaining appropriate expenditure documentation. That said, the regulations do not prohibit such an approach. Therefore, yes, if that is a state’s strategy to identify and document match after considering the timeliness and expense of such an approach.

The state will have to pay back the portion of expended federal funds for which they could not meet the match, e.g. if you received and expended $5,000,000 under the CARES Act and were able to provide $800,000 in match, you were able to match $4,000,000 of the total. You would only have to pay back the appropriate portion of the expended funds to make up the match shortfall. In these cases, EAC will work with the state to determine the amount owed. 

Yes, It can apply to the state’s overall match. The match on a federal grant is not tracked by subgrant, only by the overall grant. Grantees are responsible for ensuring they have verifiable records of the match. 

Yes, OMB has eased administrative requirements on grantees under the pandemic and EAC can delay the process to negotiate a rate with grantees. You may claim the rate as part of your match and negotiate at a later date.

You will need to establish a way to document the amount of time the staff person spent on activities supported under the grant. Generally, this would be some kind of timekeeping system that documented all the hours the employee worked and allocated hours to different cost centers, such as the CARES grant, the Election Security grant, etc. 

If you have never had a negotiated indirect rate and are using the de minimus 10%, there is no documentation to maintain. Otherwise, the documents specifying your negotiated rate serve as the documentation. 

While the law limits expenditures to costs resulting from the effects of the pandemic on the 2020 elections, it still allows states two years to make the match funds available. However, it is difficult to see what costs could arise related to the 2020 elections in 2021 or 2022. Therefore, EAC encourages states to meet the match as they expend the federal funds before December 31, 2020. There could be costs associated with deep cleaning and sanitizing storage facilities or for post-election auditing that might occur in 2021.

The limit is applied on each subgrantee. The maximum amount a state can include in its modified total direct rate is $25,000 for each subgrantee. E.g, if you have one subgrantee that gets $40,000 and another that gets $20,000, the amount you can include in the calculation of modified total direct costs is $45,000 (25,000 + $20,000). 

In addition, subgrantees might also have indirect costs they could claim under the grant, either as federal share or local match. However, the state is responsible for determining if local offices have a negotiated indirect cost rate or could claim a de minimus 10%. There can also be local election offices that do not have any indirect costs; in which case, there would be no percentage to claim. The grantee must make those determinations before allowing subgrantees to claim indirect costs. 

The regulations at 2 CFR 200 and the requirements under the CARES Act flow down to the subgrantees. Therefore, the documentation requirements for subgrantees are the same as they are for the states and any federal funds awarded to the subgrantees must be spent by December 31, 2020. The match, whether from the state or the counties can be spent after the end of the year, but it must be on allowable activities under the grant related to the effects of the pandemic on 2020 federal elections.

CARES and HAVA

These situations are governed by federal regulation 2 CFR 200.314 related to residual unused supplies. Generally, supplies purchased by states and subgrantees with federal funds are to be used, managed, and disposed of in accordance with state laws and procedures. However, pursuant to 2 CFR 200.314, if a state or subgrantee’s residual inventory of unused supplies exceeds $5,000 in aggregate when the federal grant project ends, and the supplies are not needed for any other federal award program, the state or subgrantee must retain the supplies for use on other activities or sell them, but must, in either case, compensate the federal government for its share. While the EAC does not anticipate many situations in which the fair market value of residual unused supplies will exceed an aggregate value of more than $5,000, states need to have processes in place to make that determination.  If the value of unused supplies exceeds $5,000 in aggregate, the state must report to the EAC the amount owed to the federal government. If the unused supplies are worth less than $5,000 in aggregate, the state or subgrantee can decide how to use or dispose of the unused supplies based on their state specific laws and procedures.

The same rules apply to matching funds as they do to federal funds.  Therefore, the state should follow its laws and procedures related to residual supplies when a grant ends.  If the value of residual unused supplies exceeds $5,000, the state must work with EAC to determine if the state did not meet its minimum matching requirement and calculate the match shortfall. 

Yes, but the HAVA grant cannot support the entire cost. The expenditure must meet the allocable criteria following 2 CFR 200.404. A cost is allocable to a grant for the portion that it benefits the federal grant. If the upgrades to the system are being used to upgrade a connected countywide system as a whole and not exclusively for the purpose of improving the administration of federal elections, only the percentage of costs associated with the elections can be charged to the HAVA grant. You should ensure that the county establishes a reasonable method for allocating the costs based on the benefits to the county overall and not just the election unit.

Hiring permanent staff is an allowable cost. You would need to build that cost into your budget for the future after the HAVA grant ends. Also, keep in mind that the expenditure must meet the allocable criteria following 2 CFR 200.404. If the staff person will have duties beyond overseeing activities under the HAVA grant, the timesheet must allocate only the portion of time spent on election security and HAVA activities to the grant.

You can follow whatever state process you set up to provide the funds to the counties.   You need to ensure that local jurisdictions maintain supporting documentation for the expenditures and that you conduct a reconciliation at the end to identify unexpended funds for return to the state or reallocation.

Under 2 CFR 200, computers are considered supplies, not equipment, unless the per unit cost is over $5,000 or the state threshold, if lessor. You can dispose of them following your state procedures. However, if you sell the computers, the funds you receive are considered program income under the grant in proportion to the grant funds used to purchase the supplies and must be spent on activities allowable under the grant or repaid to EAC upon closeout. Program Income must also be reported on the FFR.

All purchases of vehicles require prior approval from EAC and states must always contact EAC before purchases.  In approving the purchase, EAC will consider whether leasing the vehicle is a more reasonable approach.  States must ensure proper allocability of the cost.  A vehicle is an equipment asset that can be used in future years and for other purposes.  Therefore, the costs cannot be allocated entirely to the CARES Act grant. 

No, HAVA funds can only be used for costs incurred in a federal election. If there are no candidates for federal office on the ballot, HAVA funds cannot be used to cover any expenditures.

EAC has determined that, because the funds are available to the states and sub-recipients for less than a year, you don't have to place the funds in an interest-bearing account based on 2 CFR § 200.306.  Of course, counties are free to put the funds into an interest-bearing account and the normal rules apply.  Any interest earned must be spent on grant-funded activities.

Yes, you can expend the funds to educate voters about changes in voting processes that result from the pandemic, but you cannot use the funds merely for Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns or to encourage voting.  You cannot use the funds to print voter registrations forms as this is a routine activity for the state.  Those forms should be readily available already.  The funds can be spent on public service announcements to educate voters about options to register to vote and changes to the process due to the pandemic.  You need to be clear in any announcement that you are providing updated information about voting and/or voter registration procedures in response to the pandemic.

Yes, you can use HAVA funds to provide masks for voters and it does not have to be a requirement that applies across the state. 

The direct cost allocation principles described in 2 CFR § 200.405 apply.  “If a cost benefits two or more projects or activities in proportions that can be determined without undue effort or cost, the cost must be allocated to the projects based on the proportional benefit. If a cost benefits two or more projects or activities in proportions that cannot be determined because of the interrelationship of the work involved, then … the costs may be allocated or transferred to benefitted projects on any reasonable documented basis.”

You should allocate the costs in proportions to the activities if the allocation can be determined without undue effort or cost.  If you can't determine the proportions because of the interrelationship of the work involved, you can allocate or transfer the costs on any reasonable basis.   The items you are talking about have specific uses that are only beneficial when holding an election during a public health emergency and probably would not be used during normal voting conditions.   It may be very difficult or impossible to determine cost allocation between the federal elections this year and hypothetical future needs that will be conditioned on the public health situation next year.  In such a case, the cost can be allocated to the grant on a reasonably documented basis, and the items can be used as needed in future non-federal elections. However, if allocation between federal and non-federal elections can be determined without undue effort or cost, it must be done (e.g., purchase of ballot printing equipment to handle a need for increased demand of mail ballots would likely have determinable benefits to future non-federal elections).

Yes, as long as the original purchase quantity was reasonable at the time for the federal election, following 2 CFR § 200.404. “A cost is reasonable if, in its nature and amount, it does not exceed that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost.” 

In general, as with equipment, states follow their own laws and procedures for using, managing, and disposing of unused supplies and should use residual supplies to support other federal grant activities before donating them to non-federally supported activities. However, this is not a requirement and states should set their own policies for disposition of unused supplies under the $5,000 aggregate threshold.

No. When an expense to the grant can also be allocated to non HAVA funding, allocation methodology should follow 2CRF § 200.405. Examples: Equipment that benefits both federal and non-federal elections or election office salaries where time is allocated to federal and non-federal activities. The EAC can help you make the determination to allocate funds appropriately, which should occur at the time of procurement.

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There is no one way to allocate costs and allocation methods will vary across states.  There are two scenarios in which states may need to allocate costs between the benefits to the HAVA grant and other state office activities;  (1) when purchasing equipment or claiming costs such as salaries under the grant during the grant period and, (2) when you purchase equipment you will use after the grant ends.  Allocation is done at the point of purchase.  EAC can help you make the determination during the grant to allocate the funds appropriately when you purchase the items.  As examples, if you buy equipment solely in response to the pandemic and use it during the 2020 election, you can allocate the total cost to the CARES grant because it is a reasonable and necessary cost to respond to the pandemic.  If you buy laptops for your staff and they will perform duties outside of the grant during the grant period, you need to allocate the costs appropriately.  Grantees typically allocate percentages of time spent on grant and non-grant activities.   

FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 889

The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act included a prohibition on federal agencies and federal grant recipients from procuring certain Chinese telecommunications and video surveillance equipment. The Section 889 restrictions went into effect on August 13, 2020, for federal grant recipients under a new section to 2 CFR contained in 2 CFR §200.216.

The prohibited telecommunications equipment is telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities). Additionally, video surveillance and telecommunications equipment produced by Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, or Dahua Technology Company (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities) that is used for the purpose of public safety, security of 16 government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes is covered equipment under Section 889.

Under Section 889 and the subsequent regulation 2 CFR §200.216, federal grant recipients and sub-recipients are restricted from using federal funds to procure, obtain, extend or renew a contract, or enter into a contract for equipment, services, or systems that use the prohibited telecommunications equipment or services as of August 13, 2020.

No, 2 CFR §200.216, which applies to grantees, does not impose a certification requirement on grantees.

While grantees are not expected to remove equipment installed prior to August 13, they should expect to and plan for a transition away from the prohibited equipment. Section 889 is clear on the prohibition against entering into new contracts, renewing existing contracts, and similar new transactions involving covered the equipment as of August 13, 2020. Grantees may use HAVA funds to transition away from the prohibited equipment.

Expenses related to the installation or removal of security equipment which is used to enhance security of elections facilities are an allowable cost as the activity is reasonable to make election security improvements. This includes labor costs as appropriate.

Testing and Certification

Windows Critical Update

While voting systems operate in an air-gapped environment that may mitigate the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) vulnerability described in the notice, the EAC considers the Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) validation vulnerability a significant threat to voting system security. According to information in DHS Emergency Directive 20-02, “This vulnerability may allow malicious software to bypass the trust store, allowing unwanted or malicious software to masquerade as authentically signed by a trusted or trustworthy organization, which may deceive users or thwart malware detection methods like anti-virus”. This vulnerability affects systems using Windows 10, Server 2016, and Server 2019. Please reach out to your voting system vendor for further information on whether or not your specific configuration is affected and their mitigation plans.

Since the ECC vulnerability described above requires that malicious software be loaded on to a vulnerable system in some manner, security measures designed to protect against accidental or unauthorized software installation should be implemented and/or existing procedures reviewed. For voting systems, precautions should be taken when transporting media (USB, flash drives, DVD-ROM, etc.) between components connected to public networks such as the internet and certified voting system components. This could include setting up a stand-alone PC (not connected to the internet or voting system) that has been patched and has up-to-date anti-malware/anti-virus software installed that is used to scan any media before it is introduced to the voting system. Additionally, we recommend that physical security best practices should be followed, including sealing USB, CD/DVD readers, and other external connections when not in use.

The EAC has reached out to voting system manufacturers and test labs reminding them that software de minimis changes are available for this type of update. We encourage manufacturers to submit updates to affected systems as soon as possible. The Testing and Certification program stands ready to expedite review of these changes.

The EAC will publish a list of voting systems that have been certified with this patch. Additionally, you should reach out to your voting system vendor for information on whether an update is necessary and what their implementation plan is in the event you require an update.

Guidance on Use of HAVA Funds for Expenses Related to COVID-19

You may use any of the funds. However, you cannot use remaining 251 funds for this purpose unless you have already met all the requirements in Title III or the amount will be minimal as defined in Section 251(b)2 of HAVA.  The EAC has already awarded your 2020 funds and the project period in the Notice of Grant Award you received began on December 21, 2019. Any expenditures you incur after that date can be claimed against the grant. When you submit your narrative and budget you can describe how you have used or plan to use the funds to secure federal elections during this pandemic. 

Yes, costs to communicate changes in voting processes due to the pandemic are allowable costs. Keep in mind that HAVA funds can be used to provide information on voting procedures, rights or technology. Items intended to “get out the vote” or merely encourage voting do not meet this requirement.

Yes, those would be allowable costs.  However, please be aware that you must also ensure you have appropriate security measures in place (tokens, VPN access only, etc.) if they will be accessing your shared system.

Yes, those would be allowable costs, with the caveat that you need to ensure the costs are allocated to the grant in appropriate proportions.  If you decide to lease the equipment, you must also follow requirements in Section 200.465 of 2 CFR which outline circumstances you should consider in determining whether to lease or buy the equipment.

Yes, you may hire temporary staff under these circumstances and to provide additional temporary help to process returned ballots.

2020 HAVA CARES Funds

When the CARES Act was passed, EAC sought guidance from OMB and reviewed applicable law related to supplemental appropriations. EAC confirmed that requirements set forth in the original appropriations apply to supplemental appropriations along with all requirements set forth in the supplemental appropriation. As a result, the 20% match requirement still applies along with the much more specific use of the funds described in the CARES Act. 

HAVA, in Section 101(b)(2), specifically states that 101 funds cannot be used to pay costs associated with any litigation, except to the extent that such costs otherwise constitute permitted uses of a payment under this section.  Therefore, they cannot be used to cover the costs of a lawsuit brought against an action the state takes such as moving a primary or changing voting processes.  However, if the litigation pertained to a state's actions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on federal elections and the litigation resulted in a judgement or order requiring the state to implement certain changes in their administration of those elections, the funds could be used to carry out those required changes. 

The CARES Act is very specific about the use of the funds. They must be used “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.” The award instructions and EAC’s Guidance on Use of HAVA Funds for Expenses Related to COVID-19 provide many examples and answer questions about the use of CARES Act and other HAVA funds to address the pandemic. See the EAC website for the guidance at: https://www.eac.gov/election-officials/guidance-use-hava-funds-expenses-related-covid-19.

States are not required to place Section 101 state matching funds in the same fund with the federal funds. As a result, states can meet their matching requirements with funds within their existing budget authority. 

The funds can be used for any 2020 federal election which includes Presidential primaries, Congressional primaries and the November general election. 

No, states are not required to accept the funds. States that choose not to do so, should notify EAC with the reason via email to the CARESFunding@eac.gov email address. 

Generally, supplanting occurs when a state or local government reduces state or local funds for an activity specifically because federal funds are available or expected to be available to fund that same activity. Supplanting of state funds with HAVA funds is not permitted. Federal funds must be used to supplement existing state or local funds and may not replace state or local funding that has been appropriated or allocated for the same purpose or that is required by law.

Any allowable costs you incur prior to March 28, 2020 and after January 20, 2020, the date the Public Health Emergency was declared, can be claimed as either federal or state match expenditures. 

Yes, you are providing the funds this year as a response to the pandemic. One caution, if you plan to continue the practice for all future elections, it is not a one-time response to the pandemic. 

HAVA, in Section 101(b)(2), specifically states that 101 funds cannot be used to pay costs associated with any litigation, except to the extent that such costs otherwise constitute permitted uses of a payment under this section. Therefore, they cannot be used to cover the costs of a lawsuit brought against an action the state takes such as moving a primary or changing voting processes. However, if the litigation pertained to a state's actions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on federal elections and the litigation resulted in a judgement or order requiring the state to implement certain changes in their administration of those elections, the funds could be used to carry out those required changes. 

Yes. HAVA requirements related to equal access to voting for individuals with disabilities do not change because of the pandemic. Voters with disabilities must be able to vote privately and independently. Any improvements to systems, equipment and election processes must address accessibility for voters with disabilities. The EAC - CISA working group document on eballot delivery is a good source for more information. EAC will be hosting a virtual discussion in the coming weeks to discuss best practices and proven successes to further assist voters with disabilities and the election officials who serve them. 

Yes, you may use CARES grant funds to cover increased costs that result from the pandemic needed to ensure voting by persons with disabilities. The costs must be in response to the effects of the pandemic on accessibility related to the 2020 elections.You may use funds available under the 2018 and 2020 Election Security grants for more general costs associated with ensuring voters with disabilities have secure ways to vote privately and independently. 

Costs associated with candidate filings for federal office are defined as part of the voting system under Title III of HAVA. If the use of laptops to allow candidates to file electronically improves the administration of federal elections and makes them more secure, the costs are allowable under your 2018 and 2020 Election Security grants. If you are expending the funds to alter or modify processes to protect federal candidates and election staff from coronavirus-related concerns, they are allowable costs with CARES Act funds. 

If the staff are coming back to work on activities related to the 2020 federal elections as a result of the pandemic, the costs would be allowable. For example, if they are needed to manage printing unanticipated large numbers of ballots. If they return to work and are not providing support needed related to federal elections issues related to the pandemic, the costs would not be allowed. The state should make those determinations based on the statutory requirement that funds be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.

State match funds can come from any source, but the expenditures being claimed as match cannot be for costs that are not associated with expenditures resulting from the effect of the pandemic on federal elections. For example, if the state-appropriated funds are for cleaning and preparing schools to re-open, those funds can’t be claimed as match on the grant. If the state appropriation can be used by the elections office for federal elections, then, yes, they can be used as match as long as they are for allowable costs related to the pandemic and are properly supported. 

You can claim the expenditures as either federal funds or match funds and in both cases should follow your state procedures for inventory. Keep in mind, that the definition of equipment under 2 CFR 200 is any equipment with a unit value over $5,000. Therefore, laptop computers are not considered equipment under federal grants. Your state may have a lower threshold for defining equipment. 

With CARES funds you can only cover costs that you are incurring as a result of the pandemic. If there are other costs you incur that more generally improve VBM, you should use your 2018 and 2020 grant funds. 

EAC issued the grant as a separate award because the funds are for a very specific project, but the funds don’t have to be held in a separate account. States deposit the funds in the State Election Fund with other EAC federal funds, but must be able to report on them separately, including reporting on interest earned on these funds separately from interest earned in the State Election Fund on other HAVA funds. States must track the funds separately and report on a separate FFR from the other EAC grants. 

Any funds used as match under a grant must be used for allowable activities under the specific grant. If you have funds in your existing state budget that you will spend on allowable activities under your 2020 Election Security grant, you may use those funds as match. 

In-kind contributions are costs covered by a third-party for eligible activities under the grant, e.g., costs for training approved as part of the grant activities and paid for by another agency. Grantees must document these kinds of contributions They can be used to meet the match requirements for 101 grant funds (including Election Security grants) if the grant has a matching requirement.

In-kind match is always a contribution by a third party. Expenditures that the state incurs through its own budget are cash match, they are paid directly from its own accounts. Expenditures the state incurs, regardless of whether they were formerly paid for with federal funds, can be counted as state match as long as they are expended for activities within the approved budget for the grant (allocable to the grant). 

No, Section 200.306 of 2 CFR stipulates that federal funds provided to a grantee under another award cannot be used to match other federal funds. 

In general, federal funds cannot supplant state and local funds.  However, in the current pandemic, states may cut budgets out of necessity, not because there are cases in which they have identified federal funds to replace state funds. States can contact EAC to review the specifics of their situation to determine if federal funds are being used to supplant state funds.

This addresses the use of airtime and other media donations as match on the grants. It covers both how to determine if the media coverage is an allowable activity under the grants and what the state must maintain to support the value of the donation. In these cases, the costs are considered an in-kind donation because they have been provided at no cost, or reduced cost, to the agency by a third party.

As always, the state must determine if the costs are reasonable, necessary and allocable to the grant. Costs related to voter education are an allowable expenditure under HAVA grants. The items procured must provide information on voting procedures, rights or technology. During the pandemic, states will need to communicate with voters about changes in voting procedures in the state. Therefore, costs of educating voters about those procedures would be an allowable cost.  Items intended to “get out the vote” or merely encourage voting do not meet this requirement. Nor can states use the value of interviews with state staff or officials, unless the topics are about voting procedures, rights or technology. Interviews designed to highlight partisan voting issues or political campaigns are not allowable; the interviewee should not be a candidate for public office as this would appear to involve partisan publicity.  In addition, items that are not fundamentally educational may be considered advertising or public relations costs prohibited under 2 CFR § 200.421, Advertising and public relations costs. Examples of allowable costs would include:

  • Development and dissemination of flyers and mailings to voters about changes in voting procedures
  • Development of radio and television announcements to voters about changes in voting procedures
  • Costs associated with the airtime to broadcast radio and television announcements about changes
  • Costs associated with publishing voting procedure changes in print media

If the state is able to get these costs donated by printers, advertising companies and media outlets, the value of that donation is an allowable cost under the grant. You must maintain documentation that supports the value ascribed to the donation along with the date of the donation and other relevant documentation supporting the need. In many cases, the donor can provide information about what they normally charge for the activity, but the state is ultimately responsible for determining if that cost is reasonable and necessary. Media outlets can be helpful in determining the value of airtime and advertising costs in print media are readily available. 

There are issues to address in using media costs as donations. As noted above, costs associated with “Get out the Vote” campaigns are not allowable and states must also be careful about claiming interviews media conduct with state staff and officials. State staff may also be approached by a media outlet preparing a story about voting in the state and asking for interviews. In most cases, to meet the reasonable and necessary criteria for allowability, the state should request or initiate the coverage to ensure the content would be allowable under HAVA.  It would be difficult to include the value of interviews in which you have no or limited control over the content. Allowable media activities that are intermixed with political or other non-HAVA messages should not be considered as cost-sharing. In addition, the value of airtime can sometimes be inflated. If the state asks stations to run their announcements as PSAs, it would be important to justify the value of the airtime. 

Yes, HAVA funds in general, including CARES Act funds, can be used to develop or improve the technology, privacy, and efficiency of address confidentiality programs. Survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and trafficking should be able to receive election mail, including absentee ballots, without disclosing their physical address to the public. State-administered address confidentiality programs help victims from being located by their perpetrator through public records by providing substitute addresses and confidential mail forwarding services. However, keep in mind that you need to allocate the funds appropriately based on the benefits of the cost to the various activities of the office. If the system to develop or improve address confidentiality is also used for activities unrelated to improving the administration of federal elections or in response to the pandemic, only the percentage of costs associated with the administration of federal elections can be charged to the CARES Act grants. 

Closeout Process

In general, the EAC will close grants within 120 days of the date the grantee submits a final Federal Financial Report (FFR) and progress report. This provides both the EAC and grantees time to complete all required steps. As part of the closeout process, the EAC needs to confirm the usage of any equipment bought with grants funds that has a current fair market value over $5,000, any unused supplies with a current aggregate fair market value over $5,000, and any unexpended amount that must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.


Full closeout guidance can be found on our website: https://www.eac.gov/payments-and-grants/financial-progress-reporting

When the grantee requests a final FFR and progress report, the EAC provides closeout instructions that describes the process. The states must conduct an inventory of equipment and supplies, complete all final accounting, and close out any subgrants under the grant as part of the process. The state must also ensure the subgrantees have completed required financial and programmatic reporting, reviewed their inventory of equipment and residual supplies, and confirmed usage or requested instructions from EAC for disposition. The states then submit final FFRs and progress reports and a letter describing the disposition of equipment and supplies and certifying the completion of closeout of any subawards. Once the EAC receives and reviews the FFR, progress report, inventory lists, certification letter and any unexpended federal or interest balances are returned, we will issue a formal closeout letter describing the requirement for record retention and any other remaining requirements.


Full closeout guidance can be found on our website: https://www.eac.gov/payments-and-grants/financial-progress-reporting

The regulation at 2 CFR 200.33 defines equipment as tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost of $5,000 or a lesser amount if the state has a lower threshold. 

At closeout, states only need to provide an inventory list for any equipment that has a current fair market value over $5,000. If states subgrant funds, they are responsible for providing oversight for the inventory and usage of equipment at the subaward level prior to certifying their closeout.

Fair market value is what a reasonable third party would be willing to pay. The resale value is the same as fair market value. We would expect the resale value to be less than what the jurisdiction originally paid for the supplies unless there is an extreme shortage and high demand, but you should not assume that the value would be reduced without doing some documented market research. 

You can access online reseller resources to determine fair market value and document your methodology.  You could also provide guidance to your counties to access online resources, e.g.  Amazon, eBay or other reseller marketplaces, to see what the unused supplies they have are selling for on the open market.

No, however states are responsible for ensuring proper accounting and disposal of subgrantee equipment purchases. States are not required to submit inventories from their subgrantees to EAC, but states must oversee equipment purchases by their subgrantees and coordinate their disposition with EAC when the grant ends. States will submit inventories to EAC for equipment the state agency bought for its own use, but only for equipment that still has a current per unit fair market value over $5,000. For subgrantees, states follow the regulations at 2 CFR 200.305 which describe the requirements for managing and disposing of equipment. At closeout, states should request an inventory of equipment with a current fair market value over $5,000 from each subgrantee and determine how those subgrantees will continue to use and maintain the equipment. If the subgrantees are not going to continue to use the equipment for HAVA purposes, contact EAC to determine disposition of the equipment. If subgrantees will continue to use the equipment for election purposes, states will certify that subgrantees have met all financial and programmatic requirements under the grant and that equipment will continue to be used for HAVA purposes. 

See also "What is the process for equipment inventory?"

Generally, states are required to follow their own laws and procedures for using, managing and disposing of equipment during the grant period. Absent state procedures you can find the minimum requirements in 200.313 for managing equipment (including replacement equipment), whether acquired in whole or in part under a federal award, until disposition takes place.

Property records must be maintained through the life of the property that include:

  • a description of the property,
  • a serial number or other identification number,
  • the source of funding for the property (including the FAIN),
  • who holds title,
  • the acquisition date,
  • cost of the property,
  • percentage of Federal participation in the project costs for the Federal award under which the property was acquired,
  • the location,
  • use and condition of the property,
  • Status of the property including any ultimate disposition data including the date of disposal or sale price of the property.

If states subgrant funds, they must ensure their subgrantees follow the requirements at 2 CFR 200.313 for equipment which provide the parameters for equipment inventories.  This is a long-standing requirement under federal grants. At closeout, grantees inform EAC how any remaining equipment will be used once the grant closes.

When you log into Alchemer, select 'final report' and the system will populate with the additional fields you need to complete for the final report. 

Keep in mind that this final report should cover the full period of the grant and describe the accomplishments during the entire grant period for each required question.  Do not limit the response for any of the questions for this report to the last fiscal year. 

Full reporting guidance can be found on our website: https://www.eac.gov/payments-and-grants/financial-progress-reporting

Yes, unexpended federal interest earned on an EAC grant must be returned to the agency. Grantees may retain up to $500 of the unexpected federal interest for administrative costs. 

For annual and mid-year reports you should have this content ready for reporting. For the final report, you can summarize the data in the narrative and supplement later with an inventory list as part of the closeout process.  You can state that you intend to do that within your response.

Yes, once we determine the award amount that is to be returned to EAC, we will adjust your next FFR to reflect the decrease in federal award and the required match will be applied according to the updated federal award

 

Yes, your minimum required state obligations is based on your total federal expenditures. At closeout, if you have not expended the full amount of federal funding available, your state obligation would be reduced accordingly. 

See also "I received a debt collection letter, why am I getting this?"

HAVA Election Security Grants

Yes, converting to a more secure domain is an allowable cost under the grant to increase security and improve the administration of federal elections.  However, the allocability of the costs needs to be considered.  Since the costs benefit the agency overall, not just federal elections, they must be allocated to federal and non-federal use of the domain in proportion to the benefits using any reasonable documented method. See CFR § 200.405

Yes, costs associated with the purchase, installation, and maintenance of security equipment are considered allowable under HAVA to the extent it improves the administration of federal elections. These costs can include video surveillance equipment and other physical security devices, labor for installation of security systems, and the costs of maintaining those systems. These costs cannot be allocated to the federal award if they are not related to the administration of federal elections, such as physical security for non-election equipment and facilities. For example, if a jurisdiction adds security cameras to a building, only the costs of purchasing, installing, and maintaining the cameras monitoring election facilities and equipment within the building could be allocated to HAVA funds. Please be aware that Section 889 of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act federal restricts grantees from using federal funds to purchase equipment, services, or systems that use certain Chinese telecommunications and video surveillance equipment or services.   

 

See “What is Section 889 of FY2019 NDAA?” for additional information on the prohibition. 

EAC will obligate the funds to the states in the Treasury system and issue grant award notification letters by mid to late January. The grant award letter will allow states to incur costs, effective December 21, 2019, the day after the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed. Funds will be available for states to deposit in their state election accounts when they return a signed funding request letter and the required certifications and assurances. EAC will provide a template on the EAC website that states can use to meet the stipulations in the letter for accessing the funds.

States should request their funds immediately. Regardless of the disbursement date, states are authorized to incur costs against the grant as of December 21, 2019.

In-kind match is always a contribution by a third-party.  Expenditures that the state incurs through its own budget are cash match.  Expenditures the state incurs, regardless of whether they were formerly paid for with federal funds, can be counted as state match as long as they are expended for activities within the approved budget for the grant (allocable to the grant).  E.g. The grant budget and narrative indicate the 2020 funds will be spent for activities in support of post-election auditing and cyber security upgrades to the voter registration system.  Costs the state covers for those activities can be used as match on the grant. 

Match to the federal funds by the state or by counties can be counted as match.  Any match the state requires from local jurisdictions can be counted toward the overall required state match, not just toward the funds dedicated to that jurisdiction.

About EAC

Voting System Certification

Yes. That's correct.

Font size is addressed in several areas of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), mostly in the accessibility section of VVSG 1.0 (/sites/default/files/eac_assets/1/28/VVSG.1.0_Volume_1.PDF -  See sections 3 & 7) and VVSG 1.1 (/sites/default/files/eac_assets/1/28/VVSG.1.1.VOL.1.FINAL1.pdf - See sections 3 & 7).

A terminated system is one that never received certification from the EAC because the registered manufacturer terminated the application before testing was completed.

2020 HAVA Security Funds

No, for grant purposes the requirement for timekeeping applies to the grant overall, not to specific program categories within the budget.  The state may have more specific timekeeping practices that allocate staff time for its own purposes.

HAVA Grant FAQs

2020 HAVA Security Funds

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 provides $425 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as authorized under Title I Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-252), to make grant payments to states using the voting age population formula described in Sections 101 of HAVA. A chart showing how much each state is being awarded can be found on the EAC website here

Awards will be made to the entities eligible to receive federal assistance under Title I of HAVA, which includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (herein referred to as “the states”). The states may re-grant/distribute funds to local election districts/offices at their discretion. 

Even with a $425 million appropriation, some states would receive under $3,000,000 based on the formula required under the law. As required, EAC ensures all states receive at least the minimum by a proportional re-distribution from large states to those below the minimum.

The funds are available as formula, non-competitive grants. Similar to the 2018 process, states will be asked to submit a 2-3 page narrative overview of activities to be supported with the funds and a line item budget within about 90 days of receiving the Notice of Grant Award. Detailed guidance on development of the plans and budgets will be forthcoming and will include the deadline for submission of the narrative and budget. Note that the awards will be issued and funds available prior to receipt of the plan overview to expedite and support any needed expenditures ahead of the 2020 Elections. 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 authorizes and appropriates the federal funds, titled “Election Security Grants” in the Act, and provides $425,000,000 to the Election Assistance Commission “to make payments to states for activities to improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements, as authorized under sections 101, 103, and 104 of [HAVA].” 

The accompanying Congressional joint explanatory statement states, “Consistent with the requirements of HAVA, states may use this funding to: replace voting equipment 

that only records a voter's intent electronically with equipment that utilizes a voter-verified paper record; implement a post-election audit system that provides a high-level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally; upgrade election-related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities identified through [Department of Homeland Security] or similar scans or assessments of existing election systems; facilitate cybersecurity training for the state chief election official's office and local election officials; implement established cybersecurity best practices for election systems; and fund other activities that will improve the security of elections for Federal office.” 

Consistent with provisions in HAVA Section 101, states have discretion upon expenditures within general categories. The use categories described in the Congressional joint explanatory statement are consistent with aspects of Section 101(b)(1)(A), (B), (D), and (F), among other potential uses. The EAC can answer specific questions about how the money may be utilized, and will be capturing questions from states and sharing the answers in updated versions of this FAQ document. 

The EAC is committed to making funds available as soon as feasibly possible. By releasing these funds quickly, it is hoped that the grants can have an immediate impact on the 2020 election cycle. How the funds will impact the 2020 elections will be entirely determined by how and at what pace states and localities deploy the federal resources. 

It should be noted that states’ expenditures of their remaining 2018 HAVA funds will also impact the 2020 elections. 

Any HAVA funds still remaining at the state level should be tracked and reported separately from this new award. HAVA funds awarded prior to 2018 are available for use until expended and have no impact on the amount awarded for this grant program. 

No, these funds are not considered continuation funds and can’t be awarded in the same grant. Given the different matching requirement and longer budget period, we need to award the funds in a different grant. While the funds will be awarded in a separate grant and tracked and reported under a separate FFR, the activities could be very similar to activities supported under the 2018 grant. 

EAC recognizes that the grants will have similar activities. States have the option to expand the activities planned with the 2018 grant or decide to support different activities. Activities planned with limited 2018 funds, could be moved and supported under this 2020 grant. States can describe the expansions they will do in the program narrative and how those activities are distinguished from or represent expansion to the 2018 grant-funded activities. 

The funds are available under section 101 of HAVA and are considered grants. As such, states are required to follow grant requirements contained in the Code of Federal Regulations, 2 C.F.R. 200, and are subject to both programmatic and financial audits by EAC. The narrative will establish the programmatic objectives EAC will monitor over the course of the performance period. It also establishes the audit standards EAC and its Inspector General will use to ensure funds are spent according to the activities described in the program narrative and in compliance with the law. 

They are due no later than April 27, 2020. 

States must use the funds for the activities described in the Consolidated Appropriations Act and approved by EAC in the state’s program narrative. In addition, states must follow the Uniform Guidance in 2 C.F.R. 200 in determining the allowability of specific costs under the grant. Any equipment purchased under the grant must also meet HAVA requirements.

In-kind contributions are costs covered by a third-party for eligible activities under the grant, e.g. costs for training approved as part of the grant activities and paid for by another agency. They can be used to meet the match requirements. Grantees must document these kinds of contributions. 

No, they are two separate grants and must be accounted for and reported to EAC separately.

Yes, the funds can be maintained in the same account as long as you can distinguish between revenue and expenditures for each grant separately.

If you want to claim indirect costs under the grant, you must submit an indirect cost rate proposal to EAC. EAC will then work with the indirect cost unit at the Department of Health and Human Services to review and negotiate an agreement with the state.

Section 209 of HAVA states that EAC does not have the authority to issue any rule, promulgate any regulation, or take any other action which imposes any requirement on any state except to the extent permitted under a specific section of the National Voter Registration Act.  The regulations at 2 C.F.R. 200 are government-wide regulations for federal grants. They are not regulations issued or promulgated by EAC. EAC and its grantees are subject to these and other government-wide regulations.

No. You can only use state expenditures incurred during the period of the grant as match. Only the portion that falls within the grant period can be used as match.

Sections 107–110 of the C.F.R. describe Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and agency responsibilities related to reviewing and implementing the regulations in 2 C.F.R. 200.  They apply to EAC and its grantees.

Grantees must establish timekeeping practices for employees paid in part or in whole with federal funds or whose time is being allocated as match on the grant.  The regulations at 2 C.F.R. 200 section 430 (i), Standards for Documentation of Personnel Expenses, provide general guidance on timekeeping. They indicate that charges to grants for salaries and wages must be based on records that reflect the work performed, be supported by a system that provides reasonable assurance that the  charges are accurate and properly allocated to the grant, reflect the total activity of the staff person, not just the activity related to the grant, and be incorporated into the official records of the grantee.  

2018 HAVA Election Security Funds

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides $380 million to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), as authorized under Title I Section 101 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-252), to make grant payments to states using the voting age population formula described in Sections 101 and 103 of HAVA. A chart showing how much each state is being awarded can be found at /2018funding.

Awards will be made to the entities eligible to receive federal assistance under Title I of HAVA, which includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands (herein referred to as “the states”). The states may re-grant/distribute funds to local election districts/offices at their discretion.

EAC will obligate the funds to the states in the Treasury system and issue grant award notification letters by mid to late January. The grant award letter will allow states to incur costs, effective December 21, 2019, the day after the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed. Funds will be available for states to deposit in their state election accounts when they return a signed funding request letter and the required certifications and assurances. EAC will provide a template on the EAC website that states can use to meet the stipulations in the letter for accessing the funds.

States should request their funds immediately. Regardless of the disbursement date, states are authorized to incur costs against the grant as of December 21, 2019.

The funds are available as formula, non-competitive grants. States will be asked to submit a 2-3 page narrative overview of activities to be supported with the funds and a line item budget within 90 days of receiving their Notice of Grant Awards. Detailed guidance on development of the plans and budgets will be forthcoming. Note that the awards will be issued and funds available for drawdown prior to receipt of the plan overview to expedite and support any needed expenditures ahead of the 2018 Election.

States are required to match the federal funds awarded according to the level of match specified in HAVA or set in the annual appropriations law. HAVA sets a 5% state match to Section 251 funds that must be deposited in an Election Fund described in Section 251 (b). HAVA does not set a required state match for Section 101 funds, but appropriations language may specify a matching requirement, e.g., Election Security grants.

If appropriations language sets a match requirement for Section 101 funds, the language may also specify a deadline for state to identify how they will meet the match or appropriate state funds for the match. The states then have the remaining period of the grant to meet the matching requirements. Under this scenario for Section 101 funds, states may either deposit matching funds in their state election accounts or track eligible funds/activities from their state and local general operating budgets to meet the match obligations. State and local funds used for match must be different from funds used to meet Maintenance of Effort or state match associated with HAVA Requirement Payments. American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are exempt from the match requirement.

Consistent with provisions in HAVA, states have discretion upon expenditures. The EAC can answer specific questions about how the money may be utilized, and will be capturing questions from states and sharing the answers in updated versions of this FAQ document. 

As a point of reference, the EAC is including along with these FAQs the section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 that authorizes and appropriates the federal funds as well as pages 1 and 57 of “Division E – Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2018,” which is a joint explanatory statement that indicates congressional intent on how the funds may be spent. The joint explanatory language provides on page 57, that:

The bill provides $380,000,000 to the Election Assistance Commission to make payments to states for activities to improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements, as authorized under sections 101, 103, and 104 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 (P.L. 107-252). Consistent with the requirements of HAVA, states may use this funding to

  1. Replace voting equipment that only records a voter's intent electronically with equipment that utilizes a voter verified paper record;
  2. Implement a post-election audit system that provides a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally;
  3. Upgrade election­ related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities identified through Department of Homeland Security, or similar scans or assessments of, existing election systems;
  4. Facilitate cybersecurity training for the state chief election official's office and local election officials;
  5. Implement established cybersecurity best practices for election systems; and
  6. Fund other activities that will improve the security of elections for Federal office.

The EAC is committed to making funds available as soon as feasibly possible. By releasing these funds quickly, it is hoped that the grants can have an immediate impact on the 2018 election cycle. How the funds will impact the 2018 elections will be entirely determined by how and at what pace states and localities deploy the federal resources. 

States must provide an annual standard Federal Financial Report and program narrative for the period ending September 30, which is due by December 30 of the same year.

Any HAVA funds still remaining at the state level should be tracked and reported separately from this new award. HAVA funds disbursed in earlier years are available for use until expended and have no impact on the amount awarded for this grant program.

Yes. A quorum is not needed to distribute funds to states.

Yes, this is an allowable expenditure and EAC encourages states and localities to explore this type of expenditure as an immediate way to augment cyber capabilities already in place.

The states have a great deal of flexibility in how they deploy the federal grant funds.  The Reserve category on the budget worksheets are for funds that have not yet been budgeted by the States. As needs or threats become apparent, the funds designated in Reserve will move to other categories on the budget worksheet.  

Allowable Costs for 2018 HAVA Funds

HAVA funds may be used to replace any voting equipment designated by the grantee or its subrecipients to be at the end of its useful life. The replacement must meet the standards established by HAVA, appropriations language, and any other applicable EAC guidance. Equipment title holders should follow local and state rules for the disposition of sensitive equipment.

Travel and lodging are allowable costs under the grant. If the conference directly supports the mission/activities of the election jurisdiction sending the employee, then this would be an allowable expense.

The 2018 HAVA Election Security grant funds can be used for accessibility. Each state, and in some cases local jurisdictions if funds have been subgranted, have discretion on how the funds should be spent.  EAC encourages states to spend funds on accessibility.
Voters

Election Administration

Election administration is highly decentralized. No two states administer elections in the same way, and there could be variations within a single state. Each state has a chief election official, who has an oversight or advisory role over state and federal elections.  These officials seek to implement state voting laws in a uniform manner throughout their states.

Elections are usually administered at the county level, though in some New England and Midwestern states it falls to cities or townships to run elections. This normally includes the operation of the election office and any satellite offices, if applicable. The local election office will identify appropriate polling places, train poll workers to assist voters, and manage the voting process in early voting or election day polling places throughout the jurisdiction.  In all, this means that there are more than 10,000 election administration jurisdictions in the U.S. The size of these jurisdictions varies dramatically, with the smallest towns having only a few hundred registered voters and the largest jurisdiction in the country with over 5 million. 

At the local level, elections can be run by a single individual, a board or commission of elections, or a combination of two or more entities. Through its clearinghouse function, the EAC identifies and provide guidance on implementation of best practices in election administration to assist local election officials. Find out more about who runs elections in your state, by visiting the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

Voting Technology & Election Security

One of the basic tenets of democracy is that each person has one vote, and only one vote. Election administrators take many steps to ensure that voters only cast one ballot in an election, or if a voter casts more than one ballot (i.e., votes a mailed ballot and then attempts to vote in person on Election Day), that only one ballot is counted.

To do this, election officials maintain current and accurate voter lists, and many states compare registration and voting records with other states.  In addition, only eligible voters may cast a ballot. If a voter is not already on the voter rolls, they may be allowed to vote a “provisional ballot.” A provisional ballot will only be processed and counted once the elections office has verified that the individual is eligible to vote and has not already voted in the election.

For each election, election officials keep real time records when someone votes in person or by mail. This prevents a person who votes by mail from also voting in person on Election Day or during the early voting period or vice versa.

Elections are administered by state and local officials who are trusted sources of accurate information. Opinion and characterization of the voting process and safeguards may not always be 100% factual or include important context. Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation narratives can spread rapidly online. It is always best to check with your local elections officials to find out if something is true or not, before sharing it with others to ensure that you are not unintendedly spreading false and misleading election information. State election websites may also provide answers to frequently asked questions or rumor control explanations. The last line of defense in election security is you - the American voter. Be a smart consumer and sharer of information. 

Local election offices have security and detection measures in place that make it highly difficult to commit fraud through counterfeit ballots. While the specific measures vary, in accordance with state and local election laws and practices, ballot security measures can include signature matching, information checks, barcodes, watermarks, and precise paper weights. 

Some states, like California and Tennessee, have specific requirements for watermarks on printed or absentee ballots, while many states do not use this ballot feature. Whether a watermark design is added to a ballot or not, ballots are still anonymous and do not provide information that can be tracked or traced back to individual voters. 

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) created the Election Assistance Commission, which mandated to create voluntary voting system guidelines and certify voting equipment. In addition to using EAC certifying voting systems, election officials use additional procedures to ensure the accuracy of the election. These procedures include: 

  • Purchasing elections systems that have been tested and certified by the EAC. 
  • Programming all devices according to local laws and regulations.  
  • Testing voting equipment for accuracy prior to elections and allowing the public to attend.  
  • Conducting elections with bipartisan poll workers and observers. 
  • Verifying that the total number of ballots matches the total number of voters. 
  • Auditing the ballots or verifiable paper trail to ensure that the voting equipment counted votes accurately.  
  • Maintaining a strict chain of custody, verified by at least two witnesses (often from opposing parties).  
  • Maintaining physical security access controls

Many states have their own testing and certification program to approve voting systems that meet specific state guidelines and authorized to be used within the state.  Most localities also conduct logic and accuracy testing of voting machines prior to each election.  While the details involved in these steps vary by state, many of these processes are open to the public, and your local election official can provide detailed information about what makes the voting process fair, accurate, and secure. 

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates that EAC accredit voting system test laboratories and certify voting equipment. Participation by states in EAC's certification program is voluntary. The EAC provides oversight of testing voting systems per Section 231(a) (1) of HAVA, via the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program. This program provides clear procedures for EAC accredited Voting System Test Labs (VSTLs) as well as voting system manufacturers for the testing and certification of voting systems against federal standards, which are called Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, or VVSG.

Each voting system in test with the EAC is subject to a thorough technical analysis and testing by a VSTL. This analysis and testing may include, but is not limited to documentation review, source code review, physical and functional configuration audits, electrical and environmental testing, functional tests, and system level integration tests.

Prior to any testing, a build of source code is performed by the VSTL to ensure that the VSTL has full chain of custody over the tested voting system configuration. At the completion of testing, a test report is provided by the VSTL to the EAC that contains test results, the tested configuration of the system, and hash codes collected by the VSTL that can be used to confirm the exact version(s) of the software tested.

The information in the EAC certified voting system test reports allow state certification programs and local election officials to confirm the exact hardware and software they are using during their logic & accuracy testing, acceptance testing, and pre- election verification. This process ensures quality and compliance in voting system equipment, as well as voter confidence in using the voting systems on Election Day.

For more information about voting equipment certification, please visit our Voting Equipment Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Voter Registration

Generally, voters must be U.S. Citizens and at least 18 years old by Election Day. Some states may allow those under 18 to pre-register or register and participate in primary elections if they will be 18 years old before the general election. Additionally, many states require persons to live in the state for a certain period before becoming eligible to register. Use the EAC’s Register and Vote in Your State tool to find your state’s registration requirements.

States offer several ways to register to vote including in person at your local elections office, by mail, and, in most states, online. Under the National Voter Registration Act, the EAC maintains the National Mail Voter Registration Form, which is an acceptable voter registration form in all states except New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The form and all relevant state instructions can be found here.

Find your options for registering at Vote.gov.

The Help America Vote Act creates mandatory minimum standards for states to follow when citizens register to vote for the first time. Most voter registration forms will ask for either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of your social security number, but each state has different guidelines to register to vote. Please contact your local election office or visit your state or local elections website for guidance regarding voter ID requirements in your state.

Visit the EAC’s Register and Vote in Your State page, select your state or territory from the drop-down list, and click ‘Get Info.’ You’ll be provided links directly to your state or territory’s official website where you can check your registration status. 

Remember to check your registration information before your state’s voter registration deadline. That could be up to 30 days before the election. This gives you time if you need to re-register or make changes. 

Each state makes its own voting rules, including how to confirm your registration. Check with your state or local election office to get the most detailed and up-to-date information for where you live. 

If you have moved, you need to update your voter registration with your new address—especially if you have moved out of county or state. Contact your local election office to find out how to register or update your address. Many states offer both in person and online registration. Information on states that offer online registration is available at Vote.Gov. You can also submit a paper national mail voter registration application to your local elections office

You may need to update your state driver’s license or state ID card before the election, if an ID is required to vote and that’s the ID you plan to use. 

Be kind to your election official and let them know you’ve moved.  Visit our Register and Vote in Your State page to select your previous state of residency, and click on the State Election Office Website link in red. Contact the state you lived in previously for further instructions about cancelling your old voter registration. 

You may only register to vote in the state that you consider to be your primary place of legal residence. Visit our Register and Vote in Your State page for links to state election official websites to contact them for further information. 

Some states require voters to register with a party affiliation to vote in primary elections, while others do not track party affiliation at all. Your state may give you the opportunity to declare your political party affiliation on your voter registration card. If you would like to change your party affiliation, you will need to update your voter registration. Voters can update their party preference by visiting their local election office, finding your state online portal  at Vote.Gov, submitting a state voter registration application, or by submitting a paper national mail voter registration application to their local elections office. There are occasionally restrictions on when you may change your party affiliation during primary election season. Check with your state or local election office for the rules and deadlines on when changing your party affiliation.

In general elections, you can vote for whomever you want regardless of party affiliation. But in a primary election or presidential caucus, depending on your state’s rules, you may have to vote for the political party you have registered with. Additionally, in some states you may be asked which party’s ballot you want when you go to vote in the primary.

 

You can check which kind of primary elections your state has so you’ll know if you will be able to vote in a primary or caucus, based on your party affiliation. 

Every state and territory, except North Dakota, requires citizens to register if they want to vote. Depending on where you live, you may have to register to vote up to 30 days prior to an election, or you may have the option to register and vote the same day.  Under the Voting Rights Act, voters who moved to a new state within 30 days of a presidential election and for that reason cannot register to vote in the new state must be allowed to vote in-person or by absentee ballot for President and Vice-President in their former state.

Check the EAC’s Register and Vote in Your State tool to find your state’s deadline for registering to vote in federal election years. Additionally, you can use to the tool to access your state and local election officials’ websites to find registration deadline information for non-federal elections. 

Contact your state or county directly. Many states receive periodic notification of deaths from state and local agencies and remove the deceased persons from the voter registration rolls. States may also allow removal after notification of death from a family member. Notice may need to be given in writing, by affidavit, or accompanied by a death certificate.  

The contact information for each state is available here.

The Help America Vote Act requires first-time voters who registered by mail and have not previously voted in a federal election in the state, to present a form of identification to the appropriate state or local election official on or before Election Day. 

It is a crime to knowingly complete a voter registration form with false information. Voter registration fraud carries serious penalties, including fines and jail time.  

Some voter registration information is public information and is often available to political campaigns, researchers, and members of the public, frequently for purchase. Public information is typically limited to your name, address, party affiliation (if any), and voting history (i.e., which elections you voted in, NOT how you voted).

Review the EAC’s report on the Availability of State Voter File and Confidential Information to see what information your state makes public.

Poll Workers

Call your local elections office or visit helpamericavote.gov to find information about how to sign up as a poll worker in your state. 

To get the most up to date information about current poll worker requirements, including student poll workers and language assistance, visit your state or territory’s elections website. Additionally, the EAC created a Compendium of State Poll Worker Requirements, last updated in 2020, as a framework for understanding who can serve as a poll worker in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories.

Poll workers are essential to the elections process and Election Day is not possible without them. Poll workers are responsible for opening the polls on election morning; checking in voters and issuing ballots; assisting voters; implementing election laws and procedures; maintaining the chain of custody of ballots, voting equipment, and supplies; closing the polls; and reconciling the number of voters checked in with the number of ballots cast at their location. Typically, poll workers are trained by local election officials and work in teams (often bipartisan) to facilitate the voting process.

The EAC has compiled a variety of resources election officials can use as they recruit poll workers and plan for Election Day. The resources include highlighting jurisdictions who have won the Clearinghouse Award for “Best Practices in Recruiting, Retaining and Training Poll Workers.”

The EAC also established National Poll Worker Recruitment Day with the goal of encouraging potential poll workers to sign up to Help America Vote in 2020. Even though the day has passed, local election officials can still use the resources and information to help recruit future poll workers.  

If you have signed up, to be a poll worker but haven't heard from your local election office please be patient as they may still need your help but may need some extra time to respond to you while they are working diligently preparing for the upcoming election.

You may also check with your local elections office to confirm whether they received your request to be a poll worker. 

National Voter Registration Act

  • Any U.S. citizen residing in the fifty United States or the District of Columbia may use this form, with the following exceptions:

    North Dakota, Wyoming and U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam) do not accept this form.

    New Hampshire accepts the form only as a request for an absentee ballot.
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Uniformed service members and overseas voters should not use this form to register to vote. For information, please contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) at (800) 438-8683. You may also visit www.fvap.gov to access the newest Federal Post Card Application form.

If you are voting for the first time in your state and are registering by mail, Federal Law may require you to show proof of identification the first time you vote.  This proof of identification includes the following (or if voting by mail, a COPY of the following):

A current and valid photo identification; OR
A current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows your name and address.

Federal law does not require you to show proof of identification at the polling place or when voting by mail if (1) you provided COPIES of the above with your National Mail Voter Registration Form; (2) your voter registration form has been verified by an election official; or (3) you are entitled by federal law to vote by absentee ballot.  Please note that individual states may have additional voter identification requirements.

Only the one-page application is needed.
 

If you feel your registration form was unjustly rejected, contact your local election official. You may also contact the voting section of the Department of Justice at (800) 253-3931, or your state’s Attorney General’s office.

After you have submitted your registration form, you may receive a confirmation from your local election office that you are registered. If you do not receive a confirmation, call your local election office before the registration deadline to confirm you are registered.

Yes. States that accept the National form will allow for copies of the application printed from the computer image on regular paper stock to be submitted.

You may furnish a supply of only the voter registration applications either, printed on card stock according to the FEC specifications, or produced on 8.5' x 11’ regular weight paper. Include envelopes with the regular weight applications. The general and state instructions may be photocopied and handed out with each application, or enlarged and posted at the registration site.

  • No. Voter registration groups may make as many copies of the National Mail Voter Registration Form as they would like. Furthermore, there is no limit on the number of completed forms a voter registration group may submit to local election offices. However, voter registration groups should endeavor to institute quality control measures to make sure each completed registration application they deliver to their local election offices is filled in completely and legibly.

    The number of Voter Registration Forms that a state distributes is usually at the discretion of the state's chief election official. Many states base the number of forms they distribute on the size of the target population of the proposed registration drive, method of distribution, number of individuals registered by the organization in any previous voter registration drive and a number of other variables.

An organization may mail completed Voter Registration Applications to the appropriate election office(s) individually or in a bundle. The Department of Justice interprets the cost of first class postage to fall into the realm of "facilitating" voter registration, and not as an attempt to induce an individual to register to vote by giving something of value, which would be prohibited by the "vote buying" provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Voting

Local election offices provide and staff Election Day polling locations. In some states, voters are assigned to vote at a specific location on Election Day, while others provide vote centers where any voter in the jurisdiction can cast their ballot. At the time of registration, you may have received a voter card that identifies your precinct and polling place location.  However, prior to Election Day, you should check if your polling location has changed. You may call or email your local election office and they will inform you of the proper polling place. Additionally, most states and local election offices provide polling location information on their websites. Visit the EAC’s Election Day Contact Information page to find your state’s polling location information.  

The Help America Vote Act requires that first-time voters who registered by mail and have not previously voted in a federal election in the state, to present a form of identification to the appropriate state or local election official before or on Election Day. Additionally, some states require voters to show an identification document each time they vote at the polls. These requirements will be different, depending on where you live.

Find out about ID requirements where you plan to vote

Federal and state laws prohibit voter impersonation, including casting a ballot on behalf of a deceased individual. Election officials regularly remove deceased individuals from voter registration rolls based on death records shared by state vital statistics agencies and the Social Security Administration. Additionally, election officials may have the authority to remove deceased voters after review of obituaries and confirmation of death or notification from the family or relatives.

When there is lag between a person’s death and their removal from the voter registration list, mail ballots or other official election mail may be delivered to the address of a deceased voter. However, when a ballot is returned, election officials verify the voter is still registered when checking the signature and other identifying information on the return envelope. Death records provide a strong audit trail to identify any illegal attempts to cast ballots on behalf of deceased individuals. Additional election integrity safeguards, including signature matching and information checks, further protect against voter impersonation and voting by ineligible persons. 

In some instances, a person may return their mail-in ballot or vote early in-person and then pass away before Election Day. Some states would still count the voter’s ballot, while others use procedures to identify and retract such a ballot to exclude it from tabulation.

U.S. election laws date back to Article 1 of the Constitution, which gave states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Each state has its own set of laws that govern how elections are run, but there are several federal laws that protect voting rights. For example, the Help America Vote Act provides that voters must be able to vote privately and independently, they must be given the opportunity to change or correct their ballot before it is cast and allows voters to vote a provisional or fail-safe ballot. Federal law also provides protections for voters with disabilities, prohibits discrimination, and ensures service members and overseas civilians can vote. For a list of Federal Voting Rights Laws, visit usa.gov.  

Election Results

Every two years, the FEC publishes Federal Elections, a compilation of official, certified federal election results. These publications include primary, runoff and general election results for the Senate, the House of Representatives and (when applicable) the President.

For information about state elections, such as Governor, you can find your state elections office to view official election results, here.

For information about local election results, such as county or city office, you can find your local elections office to view official election results, here.

The results from the Associated Press and television networks may be based, in part, on unofficial local election results, but they are based on other factors including projected results.  These are not local or state official results.   Many states, counties, or local jurisdictions provide election results in real time, as ballots are being tabulated and updated into election management systems and election night reporting systems.  However, these results are unofficial until all votes have been tallied and reviewed and the election has been formally certified. Since each state has different procedures for voting, ballot tabulation times vary across the country. For example, some states require that all ballots are received by no later than the close of polls on Election Day. Others allow ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received by a certain date.  

Additionally, voters in many states have an opportunity to correct issues after Election Day if they were required to vote a “provisional” ballot or there was an error in an absentee or mail ballot that may be cured by the voter prior to final certification. Provisional ballots may be issued to voters who do not have the correct form of ID or were not on a voter list when they vote at the polls. These voters typically can provide information at their local election office after the election for their ballots to be counted, if needed.  

Once all ballots are received, and the deadline for fixing any ballot issues has passed, then the results of the election can be formally certified. This pre-certification process typically begins immediately following the election and may run between one or several weeks. As part of the “canvass” (the post-election certification of results), the total number of voters in an election is compared to the total number of ballots cast. Some states may conduct “tabulation audits” (the process of verifying that the totals in a given jurisdiction or contest are correct) during the canvass period.  

Some races or contests may also be recounted at some point during the certification process. Recounts differ from audits in that every ballot in the election is recounted, and the official results of the election may change as a result. Typically, a recount is either triggered automatically (because the outcome of a contest falls within a legally required margin), or at the request of a candidate or interest group.  

Once the canvass, audits, and any recounts have been completed, the election results are certified as official.  

The time it takes to count ballots varies greatly across the country because each state has its own unique set of rules and procedures. For example, many voters cast ballots by mail in Arizona, and these ballots are processed as they are received by local elections offices. Other states, like Pennsylvania, do not count absentee ballots until after the polls have closed on Election Day. It is not uncommon for some states to be able to report 100% of their unofficial results within hours of the polls closing on Election Day while others take up to 30 days before final results are available.  

Variations in state processes may also mean ballots cast through different methods (e.g., early in-person voting, mail-in voting, and election day voting) are counted and unofficially reported in different orders.  

Check with your state or local election office to get the most detailed and up-to-date information on ballot counting procedures and reporting timelines.  

State and local election officials know if you voted, but not how you voted. Your state or local election officials can typically verify whether you participated in a specific election. In many jurisdictions, election officials will maintain a “voter history” file—an electronic record of voters who participated in a particular election.  Many states and local election offices make this record available on their websites.  In many cases, if your vote was not counted for some reason, the jurisdiction will inform you by mail or electronic communication.

Nearly all voters in the United States mark ballots on paper, or on devices that create a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Ballots that are marked on paper are typically counted by a scanner or ballot tabulator that reads the individual marks on each ballot. Prior to every election, election officials conduct Logic and Accuracy Testing on the voting equipment to ensure it correctly records votes for every candidate and for or against each issue. 

Many states require tabulation audits after every election. During an audit, election officials review the paper record to confirm the accuracy of the machine count. Audits ensure the ballots were counted as voters intended and that the results of the election are reliable.

The paper record of each ballot is also required by law to be maintained for at least 22 months after each federal election. While this paper record can be reviewed, all election officials make great efforts to ensure that all voters can cast a secret ballot. All voters appear on a poll list (a list of individual voters who participated in an election), and they are issued a specific ballot style. However, this ballot becomes anonymous once it is tabulated. Ballots have no identifying information on them, only the selections made by the voter. The secrecy and accuracy of the election is maintained by verifying that the total number of ballots cast matches the number of voters at the election during the post-election canvass process.  

All ballots are tabulated locally in the jurisdiction that administers the election. Though some voters may live overseas, their ballots must be sent back to their local elections office to be counted. In some jurisdictions, Election Day ballots are tabulated in the polling place and the results sent back to a centralized office and the absentee or mail ballots counted at a centralized office or tabulation center. Election results reported by the media or made available by election officials on election night are always unofficial and ballots themselves always remain with the local election officials.  

Accesibility

You have the right to: 

  • Vote privately and independently. 
  • Have an accessible polling place with voting machines for voters with disabilities.  

Additionally, you may: 

  • Seek assistance from workers at your polling place or bring someone of your choice to help you cast a ballot (Note: there are a few exceptions. Under federal law, you may not receive voting assistance from your employer or an agent of your union. Additionally, some states have limitations on who or how someone may assist you). 
  • Request that your local election officials to tell you about any accessible equipment, aids, or procedures that are available to help you vote.  

Reach out to your local election official to identify your voting options, including casting an absentee ballot. Many states have options available for you to vote in-person before Election Day, vote by mail, or, in some cases, it may be an option to vote an emergency ballot. Some states require voters to provide a reason for being issued an absentee ballot—if this is the case in your state, being absent from your community, having a disability, or being over a certain age are likely valid reasons to be issued an absentee ballot.

You can find information on alternative voting options for your state using the EAC’s Register and Vote in Your State tool.

Voting By Mail

Every state has their own rules on who can vote by mail. Some states require an excuse to vote by mail, while other states automatically mail every registered voter a ballot before an election. Examples of excuses may include illness, injury, disability, traveling outside of your residence on Election Day, being college student or serving in the military.

Visit our Register and Vote in Your State page to select your state of residency and click on the State Election Office Website link in red for further instructions on how to vote by mail where you live.

Generally, you may provide a mailing address for your absentee or mail ballot request to your local election office.  All changes to your voter registration, mailing address or otherwise, need to be made through your local election office or through a state online registration portal. Visit our Register and Vote in Your State page for more information about registering to vote, updating your voter registration address, and contacting your local election office. 

State election laws differ regarding who can assist voters and under what circumstances. Visit our Register and Vote in Your State page to select the state where the voter resides and contact that local election office for further direction. 

If you have received an absentee or mail ballot, either upon request or in advance of an upcoming election, please carefully read the instructions on the proper return of the ballot and pertinent deadlines. Some states require a notary or witness signature on mail ballots. Your mailed ballot includes a return envelope with your local elections office’s address pre-printed on the envelope. Depending on your jurisdiction’s laws and procedures, you may have three main ways to return mailed ballots: 

  • By mail 
    • Place your ballot inside the envelope, and sign and date where required.
    • Most states and localities require voters to pay the return postage for mailed ballots. Add the necessary first-class postage and place your ballot in the mail.
    • Review your state’s postmark deadline (if any) and, per USPS recommendation, mail your ballot back at least one week prior to your state’s ballot receipt deadline. 
  • By drop box 
    • Place your ballot inside the provided envelope, and sign and date where required. 
    • Return your ballot to a local drop box designated by your jurisdiction. (Note: Make sure you are returning your ballot in a drop box that is clearly marked as belonging to the county, city, or township in which you live.) 
    • Make sure to return your ballot during the hours when the drop box is available, and no later than the close of polls on Election Day.  
  • In person 
    • Some states allow you to return an absentee or mailed ballot to a polling place.  If so, place your ballot inside the provided envelope, and sign and date where required. 

Return your ballot to your local elections' office or polling place, as authorized by your state. (Note: Be sure to check the office’s hours. Some jurisdictions may be open to issue or accept ballots for additional weekend or evening hours in the weeks prior to Election Day.) 

Election officials verify each mailed ballot by first, verifying the ballot was received from a voter who was properly issued a ballot, and secondly, making sure that the signature and/or other identifying information on the ballot envelope matches the voter’s information on file.  

If the signature on a ballot envelope does not match the signature on file, the ballot may be rejected. In some cases, the voter may be contacted to either update their signature or correct the issue.

Follow the instructions provided with your mail ballot to ensure its safe return. States provide specific envelopes for voters to return their ballots in. Complete the information necessary on the envelope, including providing your signature, and seal the ballot inside when you are finished voting. Do NOT give your unsealed ballot to any other person. Not only could the ballot be tampered with, but in many states, it is illegal to give your ballot to someone else to return for you, even a close friend or family member. If you need assistance returning your ballot, check with your local elections office to find your best option for returning your ballot.

Every ballot is subject to a strict chain of custody process, whether that ballot is issued to a voter in person or by mail. When a ballot is returned to an election office by mail, it must be in a sealed envelope that has been signed by the voter and, in some cases, include witness signatures or unique identification information to help verify the voter’s identity. Once a signature is compared to the voter’s signature on file, and if the ballot has been properly returned, the ballot will be counted.  

The EAC, in conjunction with CISA, issued guidance on effectively using and securing drop boxes. All official drop boxes should have a lock or tamper-evident seal and be subject to staff monitoring or video surveillance. Jurisdictions strategically place drop boxes in secure locations where you can safely submit a completed mail ballot. Some states and localities place drop boxes in government buildings or designated locations in a jurisdiction. Only election officials (often bipartisan teams) can access a ballot once it’s placed in a drop box. 

Check with your local elections office to confirm whether official drop boxes are available in your area. 

All valid ballots are counted in every election, regardless of the outcome or closeness of any contest. 

Your state or local election officials can typically verify whether you participated in a specific election and maintains the voting history of registered voters; however, they are not able to see how you voted. Ballots that are marked on paper are typically counted by a scanner or ballot tabulator that reads the individual marks on each ballot. If a ballot is not counted due to failing to arrive in time to be counted or a non-matching signature, the voter is often provided notice that the ballot was not counted.  If there is time prior to certification of the vote, the individual may be contacted and provided an opportunity to cure the ballot, depending on the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction. 

Many states allow voters to track the status of their ballots online. To see if online ballot tracking is available where you live, choose your state here.

Military & Overseas Voters

Yes, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 ensures the voting rights of service members, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) maintains resources and aids service members, their families, and overseas citizens who wish to vote. States employ special rules for UOCAVA voters to expedite the voting process as much as possible. Use FVAP’s Voting Assistance Guide to review whether your state is having a federal election and the requirements for requesting and returning your UOCAVA ballot.

You may be able to update your registration address online or fill out a state specific application with your new address. Visit the Register and Vote in Your State page, select the state in which you reside, click Register to Vote, and follow the prompts on your state’s website. You may also complete the National Mail Voter Registration form and return it to your local election office. 

Military members, their families, and overseas citizens, can use a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to both register and vote. Depending on your situation, your best immediate resource may be the Voting Assistance Officer (VAO) assigned to your command or installation. If there isn’t enough time to send back your ballot before the election, you may also use a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a back-up ballot. You may visit www.fvap.gov to access the newest Federal Post Card Application form or newest Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot For information on your FPCA or FWAB form, please contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) at (800) 438-8683.

National Mail Voter Registration Form

Form

There are several ways you can update your voter registration and many states now allow you to do this online.
 
The first method we recommend is visiting your state website. Some states allow for online registration and updates to your registration, while others require you to print out a form and mail it in. Find your state and registration information here: /voters/register-and-vote-in-your-state/
 
Alternatively, you can use the National Mail Voter Registration form. Visit our website (/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form/) and make sure you follow the instructions specific to your state to register or update your registration information.
 
If you are going to the DMV to change your address on your license, you can also select to register or update your voter registration information on the forms you fill out while you are there.
There are several ways you can update your voter registration and many states now allow you to do this online.
 
The first method we recommend is visiting your state website. Some states allow for online registration and updates to your registration, while others require you to print out a form and mail it in. Find your state and registration information here: /voters/register-and-vote-in-your-state/
 
Alternatively, you can use the National Mail Voter Registration form. Visit our website (/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form/) and make sure you follow the instructions specific to your state to register or update your registration information.
 
If you are going to the DMV to change your address on your license, you can also select to register or update your voter registration information on the forms you fill out while you are there.
There are several ways you can update your voter registration and many states now allow you to do this online.
 
The first method we recommend is visiting your state website. Some states allow for online registration and updates to your registration, while others require you to print out a form and mail it in. Find your state and registration information here: /voters/register-and-vote-in-your-state/
 
Alternatively, you can use the National Mail Voter Registration form. Visit our website (/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form/) and make sure you follow the instructions specific to your state to register or update your registration information.
 
If you are going to the DMV to change your address on your license, you can also select to register or update your voter registration information on the forms you fill out while you are there.
There are several ways you can update your voter registration and many states now allow you to do this online.
 
The first method we recommend is visiting your state website. Some states allow for online registration and updates to your registration, while others require you to print out a form and mail it in. Find your state and registration information here: /voters/register-and-vote-in-your-state/
 
Alternatively, you can use the National Mail Voter Registration form. Visit our website (/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form/) and make sure you follow the instructions specific to your state to register or update your registration information.
 
If you are going to the DMV to change your address on your license, you can also select to register or update your voter registration information on the forms you fill out while you are there.
Contact your state or county, because certain states receive notification from other state agencies while other's require notification from family. 
 
The contact info for each state is available here: /voters/election-day-contact-information/

Please reach out to the county elections office in the state you were registered in and still want to be registered in and tell them what happened. It sounds like South Carolina is the correct state so I did a quick search on https://www.scvotes.org/ for a contact number for the South Carolina Election Commission and I found this number: Main: (803) 734-9060.