HAVA funding woes in California; state ordered to repay HAVA funds

While former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley is long gone (and is no apparently working as some sort of consultant), the fallout from his administration of HAVA funds continues. The EAC is ordering that the state return over $500,000 in HAVA funds, and that another $2.5 million be returned to the state for reallocation to improve election administration in California.

Some details are in the Los Angeles Times this morning. The return of the HAVA funds is the outcome of state and federal audits that we wrote about months ago. The LA Times story offers a brief summary of the audits:

California has received roughly $360 million under that legislation, much of it given to counties for such work as voter education and purchase of new voting machines.

After a state audit found problems with how Shelley’s office spent some of the money in 2004, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission requested its own audit.

Based on that audit, which examined the expenditure of $8 million, the Federal Elections Commission has ordered the state to return $536,000 to the federal treasury, saying it was spent on things “clearly impermissible” under the federal law.

The $2.5 million in spending that may have met the purposes of the legislation but lacked proper documentation was ordered returned to the state election fund to be used to improve the administration of federal elections in California.

Federal auditors concluded that Shelley’s office improperly extended a contract for a law firm in order to avoid competitive bidding and skirt cost restrictions in the contract. The law firm provided advice on dealing with the media in matters unrelated to improving the voting system.

Auditors also found it impossible to determine whether workers employed by Shelley’s office for “voter outreach efforts” actually performed work in line with the Help America Vote Act because their work statements and invoices were so vague.

Hopefully this will end the troubled Shelley era, and that the $2.5 million will be well spent on efforts to really help election administration in California.