Last week, with little public notice, Congress passed an Omnibus spending package to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Included in that is $380 million set aside to help states secure and administer elections. State Representative and candidate for Secretary of State, Kathleen Clyde, who calls the funding a “good start,” indicated she hopes Ohio’s allocation will be used “to ensure we upgrade our election systems to voter-marked, voter-verified paper ballot systems with mandatory audits.”

Clyde is calling on Governor Kasich and Secretary of State Husted to act swiftly to put this new funding to work as soon as possible.

In order to pull down a state grant, Ohio must notify the Elections Assistance Commission of its intentions within 45 days. Funds must be used for an eligible purpose, which may include:

  • to improve the administration of elections for Federal office, including to enhance election technology and make election security improvements
  • Complying with HAVA’s requirements for voting systems, provisional voting, and the statewide registration database.
  • Improving the administration of elections for Federal office.
  • Educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology.
  • Training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers.
  • Improving, acquiring, leasing, modifying, or replacing voting systems and technology and methods for casting and counting votes.
  • Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing nonvisual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language.
  • Establishing toll-free telephone hotlines that voters may use to report possible voting fraud and voting rights violations, to obtain general election information, and to access detailed automated information on their own voter registration status, specific polling place locations, and other relevant information.

If Ohio acts urgently, funds could be in-house by mid-May, in time to make improvements for the fall election.

The amount Ohio is set by formula according to the state’s voting age population, which should result in about $14 million in funding for the state. Rep. Clyde, in response to Plunderbund, expressed cautious optimism in the federal agency assigned to issue grants, but urged Kasich and Husted to act promptly: “To access these funds, Governor Kasich and Secretary of State Husted need to notify the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) that Ohio will use this federal funding to protect our elections systems. I strongly urge the Governor and Secretary of State to act immediately.”

Given well-documented cases of election interference by hostile state actors, and the state’s aging election infrastructure, it’s more urgent than ever that we take advantage of this new federal funding in time for the general election.