November 7, 2002

President Signs H.R. 3295, "Help America Vote Act of 2002"

On October 29, the President signed into law H.R. 3295 (P.L. 107-252), the "Help America Vote Act of 2002." The bill, as approved, includes provisions concerning the use of Social Security numbers for voter registration, election administration, and computerized voter registration lists. See the provisions of interest described below.

Section 201

  • Establishes as an independent entity the Election Assistance Commission (the Commission). This Commission would serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for compiling and reviewing information with respect to the administration of Federal elections.

Section 244

  • Requires the Commission to submit the following reports to the President and Congress:
    • A report that examines the impact of section 303(b) (which would establish requirements for voters who register by mail) on voters who vote in person, voter registration, and accuracy of voter registration rolls.
    • A report prepared in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security that discusses the feasibility and advisability of using Social Security numbers or other information compiled by SSA to establish voter registration or other election law eligibility or identification requirements. The report would include data on matching information to an individual voter, the impact of such use on national security issues, and whether adequate safeguards exist to protect the privacy of an individual voter.
    • These reports are due no later than July 1, 2005.

Section 303

Requires each State to develop and implement a computerized Statewide voter registration list. The list is to contain the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State. The State would assign a unique identifier to each legally registered voter. In addition, the section:

  • Requires applicants for voter registration for an election for Federal office to provide his/her driver's license number, if one has been issued, or, if none has been, the last 4 digits of his/her Social Security number. If the applicant does not have a valid driver's license or SSN, the State will assign a number, which will identify the applicant for voter registration purposes.
  • Requires the official responsible for the State Motor Vehicle Authority to enter into agreements with the Commissioner of Social Security to verify, upon request from the official responsible for the State Motor Vehicle Authority, that information submitted by the voter registrant matches the information contained in SSA's records. The information to be verified is:
    • The first name, and any family forename or surname;
    • The date of birth;
    • The Social Security number; and
    • Whether the individual is shown in SSA's records as being deceased.
  • Provides that verification agreements include safeguards to insure the confidentiality of any information disclosed as well as procedures to permit the State drivers' license agency to use the information to maintain its records, and that the Commissioner will determine how, where, and when the information requested by the State agency is provided.
  • Requires SSA to develop methods to verify the accuracy of information provided by the State drivers' license agency with respect to applications for voter registration, for whom the last 4 digits of a Social Security number are provided in lieu of a driver's license number.
  • Allows the Commissioner to not provide the match information to the State drivers' license agency if there are exceptional circumstances warranting an exception (such as the safety of an individual or interference with an investigation).
  • Requires information provided to be considered strictly confidential and used only for the purposes set out in the agreement, and establishes penalties for current or former State employees who otherwise disclose such information without the written authority of the Commissioner.
  • Makes the provisions of section 303 optional for certain States that, in accordance with the Privacy Act, are currently allowed to use Social Security numbers and provide for the use of SSNs on voter registration applications.
  • Specifies that the last 4 digits of a Social Security number, as described in this legislation, are not considered to be a Social Security number for the purposes of section 7 of the Privacy Act of 1974.