According to some experts, this agency—the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—has become an important part of our country's efforts to guarantee the integrity of our elections.
Well, long story short, despite vociferous Democratic objections that this is no time to reduce oversight of elections, the Republicans are now getting rid of the EAC:
House Republicans Want to Eliminate Federal Election Assistance Agency
(Government Executive, 6/30/17)
House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary.
A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks.
The House Administration Committee first proposed the elimination earlier this year before the fiscal 2018 appropriations bill also slated the agency to shutter its doors. Republicans argued during a markup Thursday the agency was always intended to be temporary and other federal offices, such as the Federal Elections Commission, could easily assume its responsibilities.
Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.
Brenda Bowser Soder, an EAC spokeswoman, said the agency has been “active in the conversation around cybersecurity for a long time.” EAC, she explained, provides cybersecurity experts with information on election processes. She added the agency helps to increase voting access, boost security and update election equipment.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the author of the EAC amendment, said the proposal would mark a step backward for the country.
Eliminating the agency “would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve the nation’s election systems,” Quigley said. “No other federal agency has the capacity, willingness or expertise to effectively absorb these functions.”
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee that was considering the measure, said EAC is simply a go-between for various other agencies.
“It’s just there to help agencies talk to one another,” Graves said, “and I don’t think we need a federal agency to do that.” He noted Democrats were using the agency to advance a broader platform aimed at increasing the federal government’s role in the election process, but said it should be left primarily to states to run their own voting systems.
Richard Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, founding co-editor of the Election Law Journal and author of the Election Law Blog, said it would be a “tremendous mistake” to assume other agencies would take on EAC’s duties. The role of the FEC, for example, has become much more complicated in recent years while also getting increasingly deadlocked by political leadership. Hasen noted the fight to eliminate the EAC is not a new one, as House Republicans view the agency as federal infringement on an inherently state and local function.
“Even though it has no real power,” Hasen said, alluding to EAC’s voluntary guidance, Republicans “say it’s too powerful.”
Adam Ambrogi, the Democracy Fund’s director of Elections Programs, said 47 states currently test their elections systems at the federal level through EAC, providing significant savings. Prior to the 2000 election, EAC’s functions were housed in FEC. The agency’s expertise and relationships were in campaign finance, however, meaning the three-employee election administration office was ignored. Ambrogi said state election officials need a distinct federal agency to turn to for assistance with people who actually have experience running elections, which EAC currently offers.
David Becker, a former senior litigator at the Justice Department’s Voting Section and the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said EAC has been particularly busy lately.
"They are traveling around and speaking right now to county election officials across the country,” Becker said, adding the agency has been “extremely active” on recent threats. If it is eliminated, he said, “The happiest people out there would be the hackers.”
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said at the appropriations markup that EAC provides subject matter expertise to states and other agencies and helps improve voting access for military personnel and other Americans overseas, and the disabled.
Those functions, Cartwright said, “Would not be carried over to the FEC. They would simply cease to exist.”
Bowser Soder said she was unaware of how Congress would reassign EAC’s responsibilities if Congress eliminated it. She said the agency would not lobby lawmakers, but she defended its mission.
“We feel we play a unique role in serving election officials and voters and we’ll continue to do that as long as we’re around,” she said, adding, “We hope to continue that for a long time.”
In his fiscal 2018 budget proposal, President Trump proposed eliminating 19 independent federal agencies. EAC, however, was not one of them.
- House Dem seeks to restore funding to the Election Assistance Commission (The Hill, 6/29/17)
- The Federal Voting Agency Republicans Want to Kill (The Atlantic, 2/13/17)
- U.S. Election Assistance Commission on Facebook
- Mr. Fuentes goes to Washington (again) - DtB, May 23, 2006
- More on Fuentes' appointment - DtB, May 24, 2006
- Still HAVA problem! - DtB, November 26, 2006
- Despite the EAC - DtB, December 11, 2006
- For you conspiracy fans: watching the machine and some of its tiny, stinky parts - DtB, June 27, 2008
Trump election panel asks all 50 states for voter roll data
(The Hill, 6/29/17)
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking several pieces of information about voters, including their names, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their voting history dating back to 2006.
The letter, sent to the secretaries of state of all 50 states and obtained by The Hill, directs states to turn over “publicly-available voter roll data including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, [and] voter history from 2006 onward.”
Kobach’s letter asks states to respond to a list of questions about voting in their states, inquiring about “law, policies or other issues hinder your ability to ensure the integrity of elections you administer.” He also asks for information about “convictions for election -related crimes” since the November 2000 presidential election.
The letter also stipulates that documents submitted to the commission “will also be made available to the public.” States were given a deadline of July 14 to submit the info to the commission.
Jason Kander, the head the Democratic National Committee’s Commission on Protecting American Democracy from the Trump Administration, blasted the letter in a statement, calling it “very concerning.”
"It's obviously very concerning when the federal government is attempting to get the name, address, birth date, political party and Social Security number of every voter in the country,” Kander said. “ I certainly don't trust the Trump Administration with that information, and people across the country should be outraged."....
Asked for Voters’ Data, States Give Trump Panel a Bipartisan ‘No’
(NYT, JUNE 30, 2017)
It was an inauspicious start for the panel, which was created after President Trump claimed last winter that millions of illegal votes had robbed him of a popular-vote victory over Hillary Clinton….
. . .
By Friday, an informal tally by voting-rights advocates indicated that election officials in at least 22 states had partly or completely rejected the commission’s request.
. . .
Kentucky’s secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, said that Mr. Trump’s premise for creating the commission in the first place — that voter fraud was pervasive and needed to be reined in — was itself a fraud.
. . .
In an interview last week with The Washington Times, Mr. Kobach said the accusations from voting-rights advocates and Democrats that the commission is a pretense for a voter-suppression enterprise designed to benefit Republicans were “complete and utter nonsense.” ….