There is a small agency in our federal government called the Election Assistance Commission. It employs 30 people to help all 50 states with the mechanics of administering elections. The commission is the only federal agency tasked specifically with helping states and counties with their work of making our elections work. It supports the people who conduct elections across our country, and it collects data. It certifies voting machines, maintains the voter registration form, and helps states interpret and apply election law. The commission has no regulatory role, other than helping states craft voter registration eligibility requirements – according to existing federal election law. There is no comparable resource for state and county election boards in America. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has a budget of $8 million, amidst a federal budget of approximately $3.65 trillion (0.00022% of the budget*).
The EAC began in 2002 as part of the Help America Vote Act to modernize electoral practices, which the Senate passed 92-2. There have been regular efforts since 2011 to eliminate the EAC. This year, the Committee on House Administration has gone even further. A bill sponsored by Representative Gregg Harper (R-Missouri 3rd) passed out of Committee 02.07.2017 to terminate the EAC, so that the commission “may not carry out any programs or activities.”
Although Representative Harper ((202) 225-5031) chairs a committee “charged with the oversight of federal elections,” and claims on his own website: “I am eager to work on legislation that will modernize the voting process, safeguard against election fraud and protect Americans’ right to vote,” Harper’s bill, which passed out of committee on a 6-3 party line vote, would shut down a non-partisan group that serves solely to help America’s elections run smoothly, safely, and securely. The committee’s ranking Democrat disagrees strongly:
“This is the time when we should be focusing on strengthening the only federal agency charged with making elections work for all Americans, not trying to eliminate it.” – Representative Robert Brady of Pennsylvania
Emerging from an election year when the American Intelligence community has acknowledged that foreign interests interfered in American elections and were able to impact our electoral outcomes in every way except the actual workings of local election machines, and a year in which more than 80% of our states have voting machines at least a decade old, Representative Gregg Harper somehow declares nonetheless “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose.” It is difficult to imagine a time we have needed the EAC more, but there is a real threat that the House may terminate it this year, despite protests from citizens’ groups such as the NAACP, the Brennan Center for Justice, and others.
Please call your Representative. Ask them to oppose H.B. 634 terminating the Election Assistance Commission. Could the Commission run better? Sure. Could it be improved? Of course. Should it be terminated? NO, NO, a thousand times NO.
Also on this day, the Federal Election Commission (FEC)’s Ann Revel has resigned her post as a Democratic FEC commissioner, acquiescing to the apparent impossibility of working with colleagues across the aisle who put party over country to vote repeatedly in an ideological block instead of engaging authentically and individually on important issues that the Federal Election Commission is supposed to tackle and resolve for us. In a longstanding battle at the FEC, it appears that cynicism is now winning. This should concern us all.
*Compare the figures: $8 million for the Election Assistance Commission, versus a January 2017 trip to Uruguay by one of the president’s adult sons to conduct family business costing U.S. taxpayers $97,830 in security costs, a February 2017 trip by both adult sons to Dubai to open a family franchise, costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million, and similar taxpayer-funded Secret Service protection expected to be required regularly as the president’s sons continuing doing his business overseas for the foreseeable future. The president’s choice to spend the last three weekends traveling to conduct the people’s business at his Florida resort has cost about $10 million to U.S. taxpayers (of whom the president is not one).
Is the protection of this president’s family businesses really worth so much more than the protection of our national elections?