The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has been given full discretion to decide if states can allocate funds from the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to provide security services for state or local election officials, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In December 2021, the EAC reached out to GAO to determine whether states may use certain grant funds made available to them under HAVA to provide “physical security services and social media threat monitoring” in connection with election activities.
HAVA authorizes the use of grant funds for states to improve the administration of elections for Federal office. However, the law does not explicitly authorize nor prohibit the use of funds for security services.
GAO stated in its decision that “if not otherwise specified in the law, an expense is authorized where it bears a reasonable, logical relationship to the purpose of the appropriation to be charged.”
“Here, a decision to allow the use of grant funds for the physical security services and social media threat monitoring would be within EAC’s legitimate range of discretion,” the report says. “Congress vested in EAC the authority to administer the HAVA grants [but] also vested in EAC the authority to determine whether a particular grant expenditure helps ‘improv[e] the administration of elections for Federal office.’”
In its inquiry letter to GEO, EAC explained there has been an increase in the number of threats made against Federal, state, and local election officials. HAVA authorizes the use of grant funds to improve the administration of elections. Considering the uptick in threats to election officials, GAO reported that EAC could reasonably conclude that “grantees could use the funds to provide physical security services and social media threat monitoring to election officials.”