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Congress: Do Not Eliminate the Election Assistance Commission

On February 7, 2017, the Committee on House Administration voted to advance H.R. 634. Numerous organizations, including the Brennan Center, urged the Committee to reject the legislation.

Published: February 7, 2017

Congress is considering H.R. 634, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Termination Act, which would eliminate the EAC — the only federal agency charged with improving voting systems and helping states with other critical functions of election administration.

The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, in part as a response to voting equipment and election failures that led to controversial outcome in Bush v. Gore.

The Commission, which is designed to work in a bipartisan manner with four commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — performs a number of vital election functions at the national level. Among other duties, the EAC:

  • Sets national standards for new voting systems.
  • Tracks and corrects problems with those systems.
  • Conducts research into election management and improvement.
  • Collects and disseminates critical election administration data.
  • Provides a clearinghouse of information for local election officials, and promotes accessible voting for Americans with disabilities.
  • Maintains the national mail voter registration form.

The EAC’s role setting standards for voting technology is particularly important in 2017.

Forty-seven states rely on EAC standards and testing for voting equipment. A 2014 report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration identified an “impending crisis” in voting technology. A 2015 Brennan Center study detailed this crisis, finding the vast majority of voting machines in use today are close to or exceed their lifespans. In fact, 42 states used machines that were at least a decade old in the 2016 election. New equipment is needed to avoid increased machine failures, and security and reliability flaws. These issues entered the spotlight in 2016 when, according to credible reports, Russian cybercriminals attempted to access state voter registration systems.

Numerous organizations, including the Brennan Center, urged the Committee on House Administration to reject the legislation. On February 7, 2017, the Committee voted to advance H.R. 634. A number of civic groups and government officials issued statements in response to the Committee’s action. Read the letters and statements below.

Letters Supporting EAC